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LATIN AMERICA | 23-02-2021 16:49

Leaders of Argentina and Mexico demand fairer access to Covid-19 vaccines

Alberto Fernández and Andrés Manuel López Obrador call for fairer distribution of Covid-19 vaccines in Latin America and across the world, with both in agreement that rich nations are monopolising jabs.

Argentina and Mexico have called on rich nations to ensure Covid-19 vaccines reach other nations in a fairer and more equitable way, calling on them to be considered as "global good." 

On the second day of his official visit to Mexico, President Alberto Fernández joined Mexican counterpart Andrés Manuel López Obrador at the host's daily “mañananeras” press conference on Tuesday. The two leaders riffed on the importance of ensuring Covid-19 vaccines reach all nations across Latin America, as well as the wider world.

The two nations are working together on the co-production of the AstraZenaca-Oxford University vaccine for the region. Fernández, who visited a site on Monday where the shot is produced, said at the presser that the Argentine laboratory mAbxience had sent enough of the main active ingredient needed to produce 12 million doses to Mexico back in January. He then pivoted on to call for equal access to the drug for all nations.

“I want to assist Mexico in its process of universalising the vaccine, which has been monopolised by some countries,” declared the Peronist leader

Latin America and the Caribbean, a region where more than a quarter of the world’s Covid-19 deaths have been registered, is now falling behind amid slow inoculation campaigns. Argentina has struggled to seal deals to secure enough vaccines and the pace of inoculations is well below the government’s target. 

Quizzed about the vaccine shortage, Fernández said that "many contracts were signed" and that they were "being breached for different reasons."

"That is what is happening to Argentina," he added. "We are trying to overcome the lack of vaccines by accepting all the offers received."

He assured, however, that “from April, Latin America will begin to have the necessary vaccines to protect our people.”

López Obrador highlighted the efforts made by President Fernández to generate a production chain for the vaccine in Latin America.

“We are going to have millions of doses for Latin America thanks to the efforts of the president of Argentina,” said the Mexican president.

Appeal to international bodies 

The two presidents, both in agreement that the vaccine is being monopolised by rich countries, appealed to international organisations to ensure a fair distribution of vaccines. 

Fernández spoke of a proposal he plans to make to France at the next G20 summit, an initiative that he hopes López Obrador will back. 

“The idea is to raise, at the G20, the need to declare the Covid-19 vaccine a global good, in such a way that intellectual rights are given up and all countries can produce them freely,” he said.

That idea is likely to be met with stiff resistance from pharmaceutical firms.

Thomas Cueni, the head of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations (IFPMA), said that exempting Covid-19 vaccines from intellectual property rights would not speed up production or distribution of the jabs.

"It is really about the know-how, it is about the skill set... you still wouldn't know how to roll them out on a large scale," he added, speaking at an event in Geneva.

López Obrador also called for stronger UN intervention to guarantee equal access, explaining that only 80 countries have access to a vaccine and that around 10 of those countries have 80 percent of the total vaccines. 

"There are more than 100 countries that do not have a single dose of the vaccine. This is completely unfair. Where is the global solidarity? The UN has to intervene," said López Obrador.

Mexico, which chairs the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC, or ECLAC), raised the issue with the UN Security Council arguing that "the security of all humanity" depends on access to the vaccine.

Fernández, who departs Mexico City on Wednesday evening, also met with Mexican billionaire telecommunications magnate Carlos Slim, who contributed resources to the production of the vaccine and was received at the Senate by lawmakers. 

– TIMES/PERFIL/AFP

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