The federal government has struck a deal with the United States pharmaceutical company Pfizer to buy more than 34 million doses of its Covid-19 vaccine, the first 250,000 of which are expected to arrive in Mexico this month.
The Health Ministry announced on Twitter that Health Minister Jorge Alcocer signed an agreement with Pfizer on Wednesday for the manufacture and supply of 34.4 million doses of the vaccine it developed with Germany’s BioNTech. The vaccine was 95% effective in phase 3 trials and caused no serious safety concerns, Pfizer said in November.
“The expectation is to receive 250,000 doses this month to protect Mexicans,” the Health Ministry said, adding that the inoculation of health workers will be a priority.
President López Obrador said earlier on Wednesday that the government had allocated 20 billion pesos (just under US $1 billion) for an initial purchase of Covid-19 vaccines, adding that Mexico has purchase agreements with companies other than Pfizer.
“The authorization process at [health regulator] Cofepris is being simplified,” he said.
Mexico’s agreement with Pfizer comes the same day as regulators in the United Kingdom granted emergency authorization for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. The rollout in the U.K, the first western nation to approve a Covid-19 vaccine, is scheduled to begin next week, with priority given to the elderly and their caregivers.
Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard acknowledged the U.K. approval in a Twitter post and said that Cofepris has already received an application for authorization here.
“The United Kingdom has authorized the vaccine developed by Pfizer. In Mexico the regulatory authority (Health Ministry-Cofepris) already has the corresponding application. What many people imagined was impossible is now a reality: vaccination is about to begin in December 2020,” he wrote.
Ebrard said last week that Pfizer would be responsible for transporting the vaccines – which have to be kept at -70 C – to the point at which they will be administered while the Health Ministry will be responsible for inoculation.
Deputy Health Minister Hugo López-Gatell, the government’s coronavirus point man, said Tuesday that the military will assist in the vaccination process.
The vaccines ordered will be enough to inoculate 17.2 million people as each person must be given two shots 21 days apart. With only 250,000 doses expected to arrive this month, just 125,000 Mexicans – about 0.1% of the population – will be able to be vaccinated by the end of the year.
Nevertheless, the news that a vaccine is on the way is undoubtedly good news for Mexico, which has been hit harder by the pandemic than most other countries around the world.
The accumulated case tally rose to 1,122,362 on Tuesday with 8,819 new cases reported by the Health Ministry. The total is the 11th highest in the world, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
An additional 825 Covid-19 fatalities registered by health authorities lifted Mexico’s official pandemic death toll to 106,765, the fourth highest in the world after the United States, Brazil and India.
The case tally and death toll are widely believed to be much higher because Mexico has not tested widely for Covid-19.