Mexico turns to COVAX and Russia to speed up vaccination plan

By Pedro Pablo Cortes

Mexico City, Feb 2 (efe-epa).- The Mexican government on Tuesday announced that more than three million doses of Covid-19 vaccine from Russia and the World Health Organization’s COVAX platform will arrive in February to speed up the country’s ambitious but delayed immunization program.

“We’re going to have the vaccines, we’re going to have them. Mexico has the complete portfolio as almost no other country, that is also a fact,” said Marcelo Ebrard, Mexico’s foreign secretary, at the government’s daily press conference at the National Palace.

Mexico was one of the first countries to start vaccinating its population against Covid-19 on Dec. 24 with the promise that it would obtain 1.4 million doses from Pfizer and BioNTech to immunize all front-line healthcare personnel in January.

But so far Mexico has only administered 675,200 doses of the vaccine because the US pharmaceutical firm suspended deliveries in mid-January so that it could revamp its plant in Belgium.

Ebrard said that Pfizer should resume its deliveries by mid-February and “replenish” what Mexico has not received “during these three weeks.”

He also announced that Mexico in February will obtain between 1.6 million and 2.7 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine via the Covax platform, thus making between 6.4 million and 10.9 million doses available to Mexicans during the first half of this year.

These vaccines are part of the package of 51.5 million doses promised under the WHO initiative and in addition to the 77.4 million doses Mexico negotiated to acquire directly from AstraZeneca.

In addition, Mexico has concluded other agreements to acquire 34.4 million more doses from Pfizer, 35 million doses from China’s CanSino and 24 million doses of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine.

The total number of doses is around 174 million for Mexico’s 104.6 million adults, according to Hugo Lopez-Gatell, the assistant secretary of Health Prevention and Promotion and the official tasked with managing Mexico’s pandemic response.

“Practically the entire population is already guaranteed the vaccine,” he said.

Although the vaccine doses have not yet arrived, the government set up a Web page where people over age 60 may register to receive their injections, a program which the government has promised will be completed by March.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has pushed for early access to the vaccine to control the pandemic in Mexico, the No. 3 country in terms of Covid-19 deaths with 159,100 and with almost 1.87 million confirmed cases to date.

Despite being sick with Covid-19 since Jan. 24, Lopez Obrador spoke by telephone with Russian President Vladimir Putin to obtain access to 24 million doses of Sputnik V.

Although the president is in isolation at present and his health status has not been specified by the government, he released a video on Friday in which he said that Mexico will be getting six million doses of various vaccines in February and “double that amount in March.”

He promised that in February 870,000 doses of AstraZeneca will arrive from India, 870,000 doses of Sputnik V, 1.5 million doses of Pfizer, about 1.8 million doses of Covax and the rest from CanSino.

“We’ve been (obtaining) the supply … because in the end that’s the most important thing and what’s going to be able to provide us with the security that this terrible pandemic is not going to continue doing damage. So, I have devoted myself to that,” he said.

Lopez-Gatell announced on Tuesday the signing of a contract with Russia and the imminent authorization of Sputnik V’s use by Mexico’s Federal Commission for Protection against Health Risks (Cofepris).

“The emergency use authorization for Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine will be issued (and) we hope that everyone will be put at ease,” he said.

But the Russian vaccine has aroused criticism from opposition politicians, in particular senators from the rightist National Action Party (PAN), who have accused the government of “going for the cheap vaccine.”

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