EXCLUSIVE Mexico focuses its vaccine loan request on the US stockpile of AstraZeneca doses
MEXICO CITY, March 15 (Reuters) – Mexico has asked the United States to share doses of AstraZeneca’s (AZN.L) COVID-19 vaccine it has in stock, a senior diplomat said, following up on a request from President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador to his counterpart Joe Biden.
Deputy Foreign Minister for Multilateral Affairs Martha Delgado said that since the United States had not yet approved the AstraZeneca vaccine, it would be a good candidate to offer to Mexico, which has already started to use.
“There is the possibility of being able to access certain lots of AstraZeneca that they have,” Delgado said in an interview with Reuters late last week, saying Mexico had made the request in diplomatic conversations since Lopez Obrador spoke to Biden on March 1.
“This vaccine is already authorized in Mexico, but has no authorization at this time in the United States,” she said. “They could free him.”
Lopez Obrador asked Biden for a vaccine “loan” at the virtual meeting, after Mexico’s vaccine strategy was pushed back by a delay in deliveries of the vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc (PFE.N) and its German partner BioNTech SE.
Delgado, who is leading Mexico’s diplomatic efforts to secure vaccine supplies, said the United States had not said whether they would meet demand for AstraZeneca and other vaccines, which she said included those of Moderna Inc (MRNA.O) and Novavax Inc (NVAX. O). Novavax shooting is also not yet licensed in the United States.
A US official, who asked not to be named, said the US has not accepted loans or distributions of AstraZeneca vaccines yet. The person said the United States is currently unable to share doses but has already committed to doing so once the supply issue is resolved nationally.
The US State Department referred the inquiries to the Mexican government and vaccine manufacturers. The White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
A senior US health official told Reuters on Monday that AstraZeneca’s vaccine could be cleared by US regulators in about a month. Read more
Demand for AstraZeneca doses is notable as the drug developed by the British is the backbone of Mexico’s vaccine strategy, as part of a shared production agreement with Argentina in which Mexico is to bottle the doses. for Latin America.
“MEXICO WILL NEVER FORGET”
Delays in the Mexican regulatory process mean that the first doses will now not be shipped until the first week of May, Delgado said. Originally, Hope was a production by March, which had already slipped in April.
Delgado said Mexican diplomats also had to overcome delays in the delivery of laboratory filters essential to vaccine production from US drug maker Merck & Co (MRK.N). This situation did not affect the production schedule, she said.
Under the agreement with Argentina, the vaccine is produced in bulk in this South American country and shipped to Mexico for bottling. Two shipments of 6 million doses each were dispatched in January and early February.
Last month, the Spanish newspaper El Pais reported that delays at the Mexican laboratory, Liomont, led the Argentine manufacturer to divert the equivalent of 12.8 million doses of the vaccine to a US bottler AstraZeneca.
Delgado said she was not aware of any such hijacking, adding that a new shipment from Argentina was due to arrive in Mexico “very soon”.
A senior Argentinian government official denied that vaccine materials had been sent to the United States.
“There are no plans to send them elsewhere. What happened was that the United States was not exporting certain goods that the Mexican laboratory needed to complete the process,” the official said, asking for anonymity to speak freely.
Delays in American and European vaccines have pushed Mexico to strike deals with Russia and China.
China offered vaccines quickly, as Western countries prioritized their own populations, leaving developing economies behind, Delgado said.
She said the situation in the United States was understandable given the scale of the pandemic there, adding that China’s aid will be remembered for a long time.
“Mexico will never forget the countries that have helped us,” she said.
Reporting by Adriana Barrera and Frank Jack Daniel; Additional reporting by Cassandra Garrison in Mexico City, Maximilian Heath in Argentina, Trevor Hunnicutt, Daphne Psaledakis and Matt Spetalnick in Washington; Editing by Bill Berkrot
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