Written by Alison Martell and Juan Rocha
TORONTO / NEW DELHI (Reuters) – The Institute of Veritic Medicines and Serum Institute of India (SII) has applied to distribute the SII-licensed version of the AstraZeneca Covit-19 vaccine in Canada, as European manufacturing sites struggle to meet global demand to reduce shortages.
AstraZeneca Canada filed its application for the vaccine with Health Canada in October, but online posts filed a separate application to sell the vaccine, developed by researchers from Canada’s Variety Drugs and SII AstraGeneca and Oxford University on January 23rd.
SII, the world’s largest vaccine maker, has the capacity to produce about 2.4 million doses a day on its premises in Pune, West India.
“Verizon Pharmaceuticals has been providing key support to the Serum Institute of India for its regulatory registration, vaccine import and distribution in Canada, and Health Canada ‘approval pending approval,” AstroGeneca Canada and Verity said in a joint statement.
A circle close to the matter is in discussions between SII and Verity, but it is too early to provide details about the delivery deadline or the blocks that SII can send to Canada.
The SII did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Adar Poonawalla, CEO of India, told Reuters last week that SII was pleased to support AstraZeneca to meet any supply needs, but stressed that its primary focus was on India and other poor countries in Asia and Africa.
SII has already landed to assist AstraZeneca in carrying out certain orders in South Africa, Brazil, Saudi Arabia and other countries.
Canada, with a population of about 38 million, has ordered individual vaccine doses more than any other country, and was the first to approve the Pfizer-BioEntech and Modern vaccines, although supplies have been sluggish.
Pharmaceutical manufacturing is a major industry in India and many COVID-19 vaccines are manufactured nationwide. Canada, by contrast, is completely dependent on imports from European manufacturing bases, and both Pfizer and Moderna have cut planned deliveries in recent weeks.
Last week the European Union created a new export control regime for vaccines, which includes a mechanism to prevent certain exports. Canadian officials say they have been assured that exports to Canada will not be affected, but Canada has not officially lifted the rule.
Poonawalla told Reuters last week that SII had no plans to divert goods to Europe.
SII, which had stockpiled about 60 million doses of vaccine last month, will add a third production line by March. This will allow Covshield to produce more than 3 million doses a day, which is the brand name that markets the Astrogeneneka shot.
However, SII has pledged to deliver tens of thousands of doses to the GAVI / WHO-supported COVAX initiative that will help accelerate vaccination in poorer countries, beyond providing the vaccine movement in India.
(Report by Alison Martell in Toronto and Juan Rocha in New Delhi; editing by David Goodman)