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WORLD | 09-08-2021 22:26

US prepares to send Mexico Moderna, AstraZeneca vaccines

Washington is preparing to send Mexico vaccines from Moderna and AstraZeneca in coming days to bolster its southern neighbour’s fight against Covid-19.

The United States is preparing to send Mexico vaccines from Moderna Inc and AstraZeneca Plc in coming days to bolster its southern neighbour’s fight against Covid-19, according to people familiar with the discussions.

In a Monday phone call, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador thanked US Vice-President Kamala Harris for assistance combating Covid-19, including delivery of more than four million vaccines, Harris’s office said. Harris told López Obrador that the United States is committed to sending more shots to Mexico but the White House didn’t provide specifics.

López Obrador said at one of his morning press briefings two weeks ago that Mexico had a new offer for more vaccines from the US after he had requested give million vaccines in April, the same month that he himself was vaccinated with AstraZeneca. The company’s shipments were delayed due to problems at manufacturer Emergent BioSolutions Inc in Baltimore.

The US Food and Drug Administration on Friday said that it had found certain lots of AstraZeneca’s vaccine drug substance made at the Emergent facility to be acceptable for export after a review of records and the results of quality testing. AstraZeneca’s shot isn’t authorised for US use.

Mexico is among the countries hit hardest by the global pandemic, with almost 250,000 deaths, the fourth-highest total, trailing only the United States, Brazil and India, according to official statistics. The real toll is likely much higher when considering excess deaths.

Moderna’s vaccine isn’t yet approved by Mexico’s health regulator Cofepris. The Biden administration is working with Mexico and Moderna to resolve legal and regulatory issues over the vaccine donation that’s expected to be finalised in the coming days, according to one of the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard, whose ministry oversees vaccine acquisition and importation, three weeks ago said that he expected Moderna to be approved for use in Mexico “very soon.” He said in a message on Twitter at that time that Moderna has “a similar technological profile” to the Pfizer Inc vaccine that’s already approved for use in Mexico.

López Obrador said on Monday morning before the call with Harris that he planned to request at least 3.5 million doses of vaccines. The president held his daily morning press briefing in Ciudad Juárez, just across the border from El Paso, Texas.

Mexico has been making a push to vaccinate the nation’s north to persuade the United States of the reduced health risk in reopening an almost 2,000-mile border that’s been shut to non-essential traffic since March of last year.

The latest extension of the border closing runs through August 21.

López Obrador, known as AMLO, said in a post on Twitter that he and Harris also discussed reopening the border and migration. He said he’d provide more information on Tuesday.

US President Joe Biden has put Harris in charge of Washington's efforts to curb a surge in migration from Central America. US border agents in June had more than 180,000 encounters with migrants at the Mexican border, the highest monthly total in more than two decades, according to US Customs and Border Protection.

Emergent experienced problems after Johnson & Johnson in early March discovered that a batch of drug substance made at the Emergent facility had been contaminated. Further testing and investigation found that Emergent staff mixed up ingredients for the J&J and AstraZeneca vaccines. The error led the site to discard 15 million doses worth of an ingredient for the J&J shot.

Mexico at the start of July received 2.9 million AstraZeneca vaccine doses from the United States. Mexico, together with Argentina, another recipient of millions of US vaccines, has pledged to produce doses of AstraZeneca for export to the rest of Latin America with the backing of billionaire Carlos Slim’s foundation. The shots had been expected in the first quarter of the year but ran into production and certification delays, with the first batch shipped in June.

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by Eric Martin & Jennifer Jacobs, Bloomberg

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