The federal government has reached an agreement to buy 9 million Cuban-made COVID-19 vaccines, Deputy Health Minister Hugo López-Gatell said Tuesday.
He said the shots will be used to inoculate children aged five to 11, who became eligible for vaccination in June.
“We already have a contract with the Cuban government and its biotechnology company [to buy] the Abdala vaccine,” López-Gatell told President López Obrador’s morning news conference.
He said the 9 million shots will be sufficient to inoculate 3 million children as Abdala is a three-dose vaccine. However, the vaccine has not yet been approved for use on children by health regulator Cofepris, and it is unclear when authorization might occur.
Developed by Cuba’s Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, the Abdala shot is 98% effective against symptomatic COVID and 100% effective against severe disease and death, according to the Cuban government.
However, the protein subunit vaccine – meaning that it contains pieces of the virus that causes COVID – has not yet been approved by the World Health Organization (WHO).
To date, Mexico has only used the Pfizer vaccine to inoculate children against COVID-19 as it is the only shot authorized by Cofepris for use on minors. López-Gatell said that 46% of children aged five to 11 have received at least one shot and that the vaccination rate among the entire Mexican population is 82%.
He also reported that the first shipment of 10 million COVID-19 vaccines owed to Mexico by the WHO-backed COVAX initiative will arrive this week. By the end of the month, all 10 million Pfizer shots – which will also be used to vaccinate children – will have arrived, the coronavirus point man said.
In earlier remarks, the deputy minister noted that Mexico’s coronavirus situation has continued to improve over the past eight weeks after case numbers soared during a fifth pandemic wave fueled by highly contagious omicron sub-variants.
Mexico’s estimated active case count is currently just over 19,000, less than 10% of the figure recorded at the peak of the fifth wave. López-Gatell highlighted that just 4% of general care beds in COVID wards are occupied while only 2% of those with ventilators are in use.
Mexico’s accumulated case tally is just over 7 million, a figure widely accepted as a vast undercount, while the official COVID-19 death toll rose to 329,652 on Tuesday with 22 additional fatalities reported.