The long wait for what some called “the Latin American vaccine” for covid-19 seems to be coming to an end.
After weeks of delay on the plan of Mexico and Argentina to produce and distribute between 150 and 250 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, both governments confirmed on Tuesday that the first of the vaccine packages will be released over the weekend.
“It is great news. It is to increase production with a combination of efforts from the public sector, the private sector, and that Latin America has production, let’s say, its own: Argentine active substance, bottled and filled in Mexico, access to many countries of Latin America “, highlighted the Mexican Foreign Minister, Marcelo Ebrard.
“It is great news, it is solidarity and it is what we have been demanding in the world, that there be equity, that there be access,” he added.
Nine months ago, both Latin American countries announced the plan to produce and package the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine in the region, thanks to funding from the Mexican magnate Carlos Slim’s foundation.
However, the ambitious project presented in its day as a success as a result of the cordial relationship between Mexico and Argentina has faced various problems such as the shortage of some supplies that resulted in delays over the scheduled date to release the vaccines.
How many vaccines will be available?
This Tuesday, however, Ebrard confirmed that it will finally be this week when the first vaccines produced and packaged in Latin America will be distributed.
“We only need the release of AstraZeneca in London which should be this week, that’s what they told us, so that the weekend, finally from August 2020 to May 2021 (…) we can say that the weekend there will be a flight that it will take to Argentina what corresponds to them “, announced Ebrard.
“Mexico will receive 800,000 and Argentina the other 800,000, half and half,” the foreign minister advanced.
According to the Federal Commission for the Protection against Sanitary Risks (Cofepris) of Mexico, the four batches that are expected to be released this week contain a total of 3,403,080 doses.
In the second week of June, it is planned to release a batch of almost 895,000 doses (June 7), another two batches of 1,800,000 in total (June 9) and a fourth batch still in production, once the tests are completed. those who undergo vaccines to confirm their safety and efficacy.
“It is expected that between four and six batches can be produced per week,” Cofepris head Alejandro Svarch predicted on Tuesday.
When will they reach the rest of Latin America?
Ebrard said that, after the release this weekend, production and packaging will continue so that the rest of the doses can continue to be distributed in Mexico, Argentina “and also to many Latin American countries that made contracts with AstraZeneca.”
The authorities did not clarify at the moment which countries will be, the number of vaccines that each will receive or on what date.
Last year, Mexico and Argentina announced that the vaccines would be distributed equitably among the interested countries at the request of the governments of the region except Brazil, which made an independent agreement.
“We are being more independent in Mexico, Argentina and Latin America,” said the president of Argentina, Alberto Fernández, who participated by videoconference in the press conference where the announcement was made in Mexico.
“That agreement that we made (…) what will allow is that Mexicans and Argentines have joined the effort, the joint work, to have vaccines for Mexicans and Argentines, but also for all our Latin American brothers,” he stressed.
“There are no borders, we are together, I would say that in the same cause, seeking the welfare of our peoples,” agreed his Mexican counterpart, Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
What caused the delays in the process?
In August 2020, it was announced that the Argentine laboratory mAbxience, of the Insud group, would manufacture the active substance of the AstraZeneca vaccine and the Mexican Liomont would be in charge of packaging it, before its distribution to the rest of the region.
Initially, it was said that the doses would be available in the first half of 2021, although later other specific dates were announced that were not met.
Last March, for example, Foreign Minister Ebrard announced that distribution in Mexico and the rest of Latin America – where the second wave of the coronavirus was strongly felt, especially in South America – would begin “from the third week of April.”