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India suspends vaccine exports as cases skyrocket, stalling Canadian deliveries


India’s Serum Institute withholds AstraZeneca doses to contend with extensive increase in domestic cases

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A horrific third wave in India is delaying an 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.

Public Services and Procurement Canada’s director general Joëlle Paquette said those shipments are delayed, but the company still says it expects to eventually fulfill 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.

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Workers in Bangalore are seen sorting oxygen cylinders for COVID-19 coronavirus patients this week before delivery to hospitals.
Workers in Bangalore are seen sorting oxygen cylinders for COVID-19 coronavirus patients this week before delivery to hospitals. Photo by Manjunath Kiran / AFP / Getty

Canada has received a total of 2.3 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine so far: the initial shipment from India was 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 U.S. 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.

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A health official draws a dose of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India.
A health official draws a dose of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India. Photo by Dinuka Liyanawatte /Reuters

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 had paused use of the AstraZeneca vaccine in people under 55 earlier this month.

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 that risk, provincial health officials paused use of the AstraZeneca vaccine in people under 55 earlier this month after a recommendation…



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