Vaccines from US represent a lifeline for Mexico

By Pedro Pablo Cortes

Mexico City, Mar 19 (efe-epa).- The United States has agreed to loan 2.7 million doses of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine to Mexico, where an ambitious inoculation program has been hampered by problems with supply.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador recalled Friday that the discussions leading to the accord began with a request he made to US counterpart Joe Biden during a virtual summit on March 1.

“We have achieved that this is resolved on good terms for us, for the people of Mexico. Thank you, I repeat, to President Biden for accepting to send us these vaccines,” the Mexican leader said.

With 196,000 fatalities, Mexico trails only the US and Brazil in coronavirus deaths.

Mexico launched its inoculation campaign on Dec. 24 with a goal of vaccinating health workers and the country’s 15 million people over the age of 60 by the end of April.

But just 4.9 million doses have been administered to date.

The Mexican government signed contracts for more than 250 million doses of vaccine from various manufacturers, of which only 8.16 million have been delivered.

US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer has shipped 3.89 million doses of its vaccine to Mexico. Another 3 million doses came from China’s Sinovac.

Mexico has received 870,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine and 400,000 doses of the Russian-made Sputnik V.

Washington, meanwhile, is holding 7 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine that cannot be distributed because the US Food and Drug Administration has yet to approve the product developed by the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker in partnership with Oxford University.

With the 2.7 million AstraZeneca doses from the US, Mexico will be able to ensure that every person over 60 will have received at least a first dose of the vaccine by May 1, Lopez Obrador said.

Some in Mexico, however, suspect that Washington traded vaccines for commitments from the Lopez Obrador government to take steps to stem the northbound flow of Central American migrants amid a burgeoning crisis on the US border.

On Thursday, Mexico closed its southern border for the first time since the start of the pandemic, citing public health concerns as the reason.

“What are we going to give in exchange?, what we have always given: friendship and cooperation in all areas,” Lopez Obrador said Friday.

Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard, while acknowledging that Mexico was simultaneously talking with the US about vaccines and migration, likewise dismissed the notion of a quid pro quo.

“Rather than wondering whether every movement must be negotiated for another thing, what we are building is the scaffolding for a good relationship of cooperation,” Mexico’s top diplomat said.

Jaime Alvarez, who was vaccinated Friday in the teeming Mexico City suburb of Nezahualcoyotl, welcomed the news of the agreement with the US.

“As we are many, it (vaccination) is not a quick thing that arrives tomorrow or the day after tomorrow,” he told Efe “It is happening little by little and it looks now that some vaccines from the United States going to come as well and that is good.” EFE ppc/dr

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