Mexico wants to be one of the first countries to guarantee access to the covid-19 vaccine. The Government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador has signed three agreements on Tuesday to try to ensure up to 198 million doses of different vaccines when they go on the market. The agreements with the pharmaceutical companies AstraZeneca (United Kingdom), Pfizer (United States) and CanSino (China), as well as the advance payment last week to the Covax mechanism, imply an investment of 1,659 million dollars, more than 35,153 million pesos. Most prototypes require two doses to be applied, except in the case of CanSino, so the authorities estimate that up to 116 million inhabitants can be protected. “It will be universal, it is for the entire population and it will be distributed free of charge,” the president said in his daily press conference.
As no prototype has completed the last phase of clinical trials to go on the market, the contracts signed by the Mexican government only formalize its intention to buy the vaccines. The first condition is that their effectiveness is proven and that they can be marketed. If these three leading projects do not fall in the final stretch of the race for the vaccine, the Latin American country would pay against delivery and will follow a payment plan that begins in December 2020 and concludes at the end of 2021.
Health authorities have indicated that priority would be given to health personnel and the population most vulnerable to the virus, such as people over 60 years of age and with chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension, and then universal coverage. “What we would like is that from December we had the first vaccines and in the first quarter of next year we would begin to vaccinate,” López Obrador said. Until this Monday, the disease has left 84,000 dead and 821,000 infections, a fatality rate of 10%.
The largest agreement is with the vaccine being developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford, with the promise to purchase 77.4 million doses to cover 38.7 million people. Mexico had already signed an agreement in August to produce and distribute 250 million doses, in association with Argentina and the foundation of the magnate Carlos Slim. This vaccine would begin to be distributed between March and August of next year.
With CanSino, which develops a vaccine that has undergone clinical trials among the Chinese military, the country has an agreement for 35 million doses of a single application, which may begin to arrive from December. Some 20 million would be received in the first half of next year and the largest batches are expected to arrive between July and September 2021, with three monthly deliveries of 5.6 million injections. With Pfizer, the agreement is to acquire between 15.5 and 34.4 million doses, which would protect more than 17 million people in the most optimistic scenario.
In addition to the agreements, Mexico has already paid an advance of 159 million to the Covax mechanism. It is a multilateral initiative that functions as a kind of insurance policy, in which the countries with the most resources advance payments to finance and access a portfolio of 18 candidate vaccines and the most vulnerable countries receive partially or totally subsidized doses. In that portfolio is the AstraZeneca vaccine, but also six American prototypes, four Chinese, two from India, and projects from Germany, the United Kingdom, Australia and South Korea. The government has said it will make two additional payments in November and next December for a total of $ 160 million. With Covax, the country would have access to 51.5 million doses for 25 million people.
“We will not lag behind other countries. This agreement is for Mexico to be one of the first to have the vaccine, ”López Obrador insisted, flanked by his Secretaries of Finance, Health and Foreign Relations and representatives of Pfizer and AstraZeneca. “As of today, Mexico is in the same condition as the United States, the European Union and other countries in the world. We have already secured the necessary quotas, ”said Chancellor Marcelo Ebrard, number two in the administration and in charge of diplomatic deployment to secure the doses, key to economic reactivation.
Ebrard added that he is negotiating with seven laboratories to carry out clinical trials in Mexico, including CanSino and tests for the Sputnik V vaccine, from the Russian government. At the beginning of last September, the Kremlin announced that there was an agreement to send 32 million doses of its vaccine to Mexico and that it had a distribution agreement with a Mexican laboratory, Landsteiner Scientific. The announcement from Russia, the Mexican authorities later clarified, occurred without direct participation of the López Obrador government in the negotiations. This Tuesday there were only marginal mentions about Sputnik V, although its arrival in the country has not been ruled out.
“There is going to be a time when we have the best vaccine among the candidates, but that does not mean that we should stop looking for new vaccines that are better in the future,” said José Moreno, Director of Research at Hospital Juárez, in September past. The key behind the promise of purchase is that the first vaccines are approved and that afterwards the promise of universal coverage can be fulfilled. Meanwhile, the strategy of the Mexican government continues to be to have all options open.