Mexico and Argentina aim to have a coronavirus vaccine available for Latin America early next year under a production agreement with drugs giant AstraZeneca, the Mexican government said Thursday.
The vaccine, being developed in collaboration with the University of Oxford, is one of the most promising of dozens that researchers around the world are racing to prove safe and efficient.
The goal is to "start manufacturing to have the vaccine in the first quarter of next year," Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador told a press conference, confirming yesterday's announcement by Argentine leader Alberto Fernández.
The goal is to produce the vaccine as of the first half of next year, and there will be no profits from it during the pandemic, Fernández said in his statement following a meeting with representatives of AstraZeneca. Health Minister Ginés García González said Argentina will prioritise getting the vaccine to the elderly, medical professionals and people with pre-existing conditions.
López Obrador said access to the vaccine would be "universal and free" in Mexico, which has registered nearly 55,000 coronavirus deaths – the third-highest toll in the world.
Production will be funded by the foundation of Mexican mogul Carlos Slim.
AstraZeneca's Mexico representative Silvia Varela said the active component would be made in Argentina and sent to Mexico where the vaccine will be completed for export around the region.
Brazil, which has recorded more than 100,000 coronavirus deaths, has a separate agreement with the British-Swedish pharmaceuticals company.
Mexico said it had asked Russia for more clinical data on its new coronavirus vaccine, dubbed "Sputnik V," which Moscow hailed this week was the first to be approved offering "sustainable immunity."
“This is a deal for production in Mexico of the vaccine that today is considered the most advanced in the world,” said Mexico's Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said. Manufacturing is scheduled for the first quarter of 2021, according to AstraZeneca’s Mexico country chief, Sylvia Varela.
Mexico is third in the world in confirmed Covid-19 deaths with more than 53,000, trailing only Brazil and the United States, and Latin America accounts for half of the 10 countries with the most cases globally. Argentina has more than 5,000 deaths, with close to 280,000 cases.
Slim’s son, América Movil chairman Carlos Slim Domit, also joining the news conference, said that the collaboration will allow Mexico to obtain the vaccine one year early. Biotechnology company mAbxience will produce the active substance in Argentina and Mexican laboratory Liomont will complete the process of formulation, Fernández said Wednesday. The finished vaccine will then be exported to the rest of Latin America.