India suspends vaccine exports
1.5M DOSES FOR CANADA ON HOLD AS DELHI STRUGGLES WITH A DEADLY THIRD COVID WAVE
Ahorrific third wave in India is delaying a previously expected shipment of 1.5 million doses of Astrazeneca vaccines that had been set to arrive in Canada this month.
India's Serum Institute signed a contract with Canada earlier this year to provide two million doses of their version of the Astrazeneca vaccine to Canada. The first 500,000 doses arrived in March, with a further shipment of a million doses expected in April, and the remainder of the order expected in mid-may.
Director general Joëlle Paquette, with Public Services and Procurement Canada, said those shipments are delayed, but the company still says it expects to eventually fulfil its order.
“The company is committed to supply their 1.5 million doses, and we're still tracking that for the end of June. Obviously the situation in
India and the exportation ban may affect that particular delivery,” she said.
India is in the midst of a rapidly accelerating third wave and had more than 300,000 new cases on Wednesday alone. Hospitals in the country are struggling to keep up with demand for oxygen for critically ill patients.
The country of 1.3 billion people was averaging around 40,000 cases a day just a month ago, but the virus had surged over the last month and the government has stopped all vaccine exports for the time being.
Canada has received a total of 2.3 million doses of the Astrazeneca vaccine so far, the initial shipment from India followed later in March by a shipment from the United States of 1.5 million doses and a shipment last week of just over 300,000 doses through the COVAX facility.
The COVAX facility pools money from developed countries and uses it to buy vaccines for those countries and for the developing world. Canada should receive more doses from COVAX, but there is no date on when.
The 1.5 million doses from the United States were part of an order of 20 million the Trudeau government purchased, but President Joe Biden's administration is preventing exports from the U.S. until America has an adequate supply.
Biden allowed for the 1.5 million doses to be shipped in March and said Thursday he was hoping to have more shipments to Canada soon, but there is no clear timeline on those deliveries. The American Food and Drug administration has yet to approve Astrazeneca's vaccine, and doses produced there are currently going unused.
Canada saw a surge of Astrazeneca doses used this week after several provinces opened up their use to people as young as 40.
Due to an extremely rare risk of blood clots, provincial health officials paused use of the Astrazeneca vaccine in people under 55 earlier this month after a recommendation from the National Advisory Council on Immunization.
After a review by Health Canada and NACI, some provinces dropped the age down to 40 on Tuesday. Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada's chief public health officer, said the clots are still exceedingly rare.
“There have been a few reported cases of a very rare event, following administration of over 1.1 million doses of the Astrazeneca vaccine.”
NACI had a press conference scheduled earlier this week to update its stance on
I THINK WE'LL HAVE VERY POSITIVE NEWS IN A SHORT ORDER WITH MODERNA.
Astrazeneca, but cancelled that at the last minute to review more data.
Next week, Canada is set to receive another million Pfizer doses and 300,000 doses of Johnson & Johnson's one-shot vaccine. Moderna is expected to ship 650,000 doses next week, about half of what was initially expected, as the company deals with manufacturing issues.
Maj.-gen. Dany Fortin said that despite the setbacks with Moderna and Astrazeneca, he expects the vaccine deliveries will only trend up going forward, with Pfizer set to double its weekly deliveries beginning in May. He said he was also optimistic Moderna would clear its challenges.
“I think we'll have very positive news in a short order with Moderna,” he said. “The total amount of vaccine doses this quarter alone is well above 40 million and we will feel that significant increase starting the week after next.”
The Astrazeneca vaccine is a two-dose vaccine and despite the delays, Fortin said he is confident the second doses will be available when Canadians need them.
“At this point, I don't think that we should worry about availability of second doses. What we're focusing on is scaling up.”