Jude Webber in Mexico City
Mexico, where the Covid-19 vaccination strategy has fallen behind schedule amid supply shortages, said it would receive Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines under the international Covax facility in February as president Andrés Manuel López Obrador ramped up procurement efforts.
“On Friday [Jan] 29, we received a letter from Covax…confirming the assignation of AstraZeneca vaccines for Mexico during February and March,” Marcelo Ebrard, foreign minister, tweeted. “Early tomorrow [we’ll announce] dates and times.”
In a video posted on Friday night, designed to allay fears about his health after almost a week out of the public eye since contracting the virus, Mr López Obrador said he had talked to Russian president Vladimir Putin, AstraZeneca, the chief executive of Pfizer and the Chinese ambassador in Mexico and had secured additional vaccine doses.
Mexico was the first Latin American country to begin vaccinations, on Christmas Eve, but has fallen behind schedule as deliveries of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine have dried up amid a global supply squeeze.
Mexico has so far administered 673,327 doses of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine. The national strategy had aimed to vaccinate 1.1m front-line health workers by the end of January. However, the president still expects to have inoculated all over 60s by the end of March — something he says will slash mortality by 80 per cent.
Mexico has confirmed 158,536 deaths and nearly 1.9m cases but low testing and high excess mortality data suggest that the official figures are probably underreported.
Mexico had initially agreed to buy 34.4m Pfizer/BioNTech doses, 77.4m doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab, 35m from China’s CanSino and 51.5m under the WHO’s Covax facility. It has since struck a deal with Russia for 24m Sputnik V doses. Sputnik V and CanSino have yet to be approved by Mexican regulators.
Nevertheless, Mr López Obrador said in his video that a first batch of 870,000 Sputnik V doses should begin arriving by the end of this week. He said Mexico had also agreed to buy 870,000 Oxford/AstraZeneca doses in February from India in addition to its initial order from the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker.
Deliveries of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine have been on hold since the middle of January while the drugmaker retools its plant in Belgium to meet surging demand. Mr López Obrador, who has insisted that Mexico accepted a delay in deliveries to ensure supplies were available for poor countries, said he had spoken to Albert Bourla, Pfizer chief executive, and it was “very probable” that supplies would resume on February 10, not February 15 as had previously been announced.