Mexico needs 200 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine; shooting could start in April

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MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexico will need up to 200 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine, a senior government official says, and inoculation of its 120 million people could begin as early as April if clinical trials and regulatory approvals for pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca Plc are proceeding as planned.

FILE PHOTO: The logo of pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca is displayed on a floor display at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, United States, April 8, 2019. REUTERS / Brendan McDermid / File Photo

In partnership with the governments of Mexico and Argentina, AstraZeneca initially plans to produce 150 million doses in early 2021 and eventually manufacture at least 400 million doses for distribution throughout Latin America. AstraZeneca is among those working on COVID-19 vaccine candidates currently in development around the world.

The Mexican government has also said it is considering other options to quickly get a vaccine to its population, the second largest in Latin America.

AstraZeneca will be able to produce between 30 and 35 million vaccines per month, Martha Delgado, Mexico’s deputy foreign minister, told Reuters in an interview on Friday.

The vaccine might require two doses to be effective, Delgado said.

“If we need 200 million, we will vaccinate for a long time,” Delgado added.

The so-called final-stage phase III trials are expected to end in November or December, after which AstraZeneca will seek government approvals if the vaccine is found to be safe and effective. If that goes well, Delgado estimated that the first vaccines in Mexico could be given in April.

Mexico’s death toll of 55,908 is the third highest in the world, behind the United States and Brazil. Latin America’s 6 million cases and over 237,000 deaths make it the hardest-hit region in the world.

To ensure that all Mexicans have access to a vaccine, the government of President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is in talks with other pharmaceutical companies at different stages of vaccine development.

“Astra’s production will not be enough in Mexico. We need to supplement that with a few more vaccines, ”Delgado said.

The Mexican government has entered into memoranda of understanding with French drug maker Sanofi, the Janssen unit of Johnson & Johnson, and Chinese companies CanSino Biologics Inc and Walvax Biotechnology Co Ltd.

CanSino and Walvax are interested in producing a vaccine in Mexico for delivery to the Latin American market.

Mexican health authorities are evaluating the Phase I and II clinical trials of these four companies and will determine the viability of the Phase III studies in Mexico in the coming weeks, Delgado said. Prior phase trials represent an initial test of the safety and efficacy of a vaccine in a small number of subjects.

To save time, Mexico’s federal health regulator COFEPRIS will begin analyzing completed studies of AstraZeneca and speed up approvals if Phase III is successful.

“It is the country’s strategy to diversify our possibilities to have access to the vaccine as quickly as possible… and obviously at an affordable cost for the country,” said Delgado.

Reporting by Anthony Esposito and Adriana Barrera; Edited by Will Dunham

Our standards:Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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