Assuming it passes successfully through the Phase 3 trials it is currently undergoing, a Covid-19 vaccine developed by the University of Oxford in the U.K. and licensed to the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca will be packaged for Latin American distribution at Mexican laboratories, thanks to a deal between the pharmaceutical and the Carlos Slim Foundation.
Mexico’s role will be to package the 150 million to 250 million doses of the vaccine to be distributed in the region. AstraZeneca already has facilities in Argentina.
According to Argentine President Alberto Fernández, who announced the deal today, the agreement will assure Latin American access to the vaccine as soon as it becomes publicly available, possibly in the first six months of 2021.
“What this agreement makes possible is that Latin America, and particularly Argentina, will be able to have access to the vaccine six to 12 months before we would have had access to it had we not been able to make this agreement,” he said.
“AstraZeneca recognizes the urgency of the worldwide pandemic and will work in alliance with partners for the distribution of the vaccine in an egalitarian format,” the Slim Foundation said in a press release. “AstraZeneca is working with strategic partners in Latin America, including Argentina and Mexico, taking advantage of its capacity to facilitate the early availability of the potential vaccine.”
Fernández said the vaccines will be distributed fairly between the Latin American countries that request it. AstraZeneca has promised that the vaccine will be affordable, at only a few dollars a dose, and it does not expect to profit from it during the pandemic.
The vaccine’s trials with human volunteers are currently taking place in the United Kingdom, Brazil, and South Africa and are scheduled to begin in the U.S. this month. Early clinical results have made AstraZeneca’s vaccine, which uses a weakened version of a common-cold virus, one of the leading candidates to be launched globally, with researchers reporting that it is safe and creates antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2 virus with minimal side effects. The shot is expected to provide protection for about a year, probably using a two-dose delivery system.
President López Obrador said Thursday the government has allocated 25 billion pesos (US $1.12 billion) for the vaccine to make it free and universal.
“All Mexicans are going to have access to the vaccine, and there should be no need for the poor to worry,” he said.