Mexico will shortly begin exporting AstraZeneca-Oxford coronavirus vaccines to other Latin American nations, the government announced Tuesday, under a joint production agreement with Argentina hit by a series of delays.
Following the deal struck last August to supply around 150 million shots for the region, the Argentine pharmaceutical firm mAbxience is supplying the active component and Mexico's Liomont is responsible for bottling the vaccines.
A first shipment of 800,000 doses will be sent to Argentina this weekend, while Mexico will also receive its first batch, the government said, after delays blamed on a shortage of packaging supplies.
Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard told reporters that it had been a "long and complicated" process.
Once final authorisation is given by AstraZeneca – which is expected this week, Ebrard said – the plant will start supplying Mexico, Argentina and "many Latin American countries," he said.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Mexico – one of the worst-hit countries with an official Covid-19 death toll of nearly 222,000 – was committed to helping nations that do not have enough vaccines.
Argentina's President Alberto Fernández hailed the news, declaring by video link that joint production would make Latin America less reliant on other regions for vaccines.
"It is independence, being able to make our vaccines (...) not having to go around asking the world to listen to us in order to bring immunity to our peoples," said the Peronist leader.
Both Fernández and López Obrador – together with the leaders of Jamaica, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Bolivia and Uruguay – signed a statement requesting equitable access to vaccines from the international community.
Argentina, a country of around 45 million inhabitants, is under a strict period of confinement for nine days to combat a deadly Covid-19 second wave. To date, the Health Ministry has recorded more than 3.6 million confirmed cases, with 75,000 deaths.
As of Monday, some 8.8 million Argentines had been vaccinated with at least one dose, while 2.4 million were "fully immunised" wth two doses.
Mexico, with a population of 126 million, is the fourth-worst hit country in the world from the virus crisis, having recorded 221,695 deaths and more than 2.39 million confirmed cases.
To date, 11.8 million Mexicans have completed the vaccination process and 6.7 million have had half a dose.