(AFP) 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 in Mexico will allow its availability in Latin America, 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 Thursday (August 13), 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,” said Fernández.
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 more reasonable prices, between US$3 and US$4 dollars, and it does not expect to profit from it during the pandemic,” said Fernández.
“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.”
The agreement was announced in Buenos Aires by President Alberto Fernández and later the Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard who said that Latin America will be able to have access to the “cutting edge vaccine” as the AstraZeneca project and the University of Oxford are one of the most solid and advanced.
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.
Latin America, except Brazil, will be able to access “at the same time that the countries develop an effective vaccine and at a price that does not include profit because it was the condition that Oxford put,” Ebrard told the Televisa network.
Elías Ayub, currently Director of Strategic Alliances of Telefonos de Mexico and CEO of the Telmex Foundation, explained that the telecommunications magnate’s foundation is already allocating financial resources to the process and that the production of the potential vaccine has already been negotiated with two laboratories, one in each country.
“Neither AstraZeneca nor Slim will have a profit in production,” Elías Ayub added, noting that the magnate’s main motivation for participating in the project is to “save lives,” followed by the need to preserve health and promote economic reactivation.
Carlos Slim is the owner of the América Móvil, is a Mexican telecommunications corporation headquartered in Mexico City, Mexico and the seventh-largest mobile network operator in terms of equity subscribers and one of the largest corporations in the world.
América Móvil subsidiaries includes brands such as Claro, Telmex, Telcel, Nextel Brazil, and Uno TV.
The Forbes places Slim 12th of the richest in the world 2020 with an estimated worth of US$52.4 billion dollars.
Mexico has agreements with other firms, such as the French Sanofi, the American Janssen Pharmaceuticals and the Chinese CanSino Biologics and Walvax Biotechnology, to participate in clinical trials of a possible vaccine.
Mexico is the third country in the world, behind the United States and Brazil, with the highest number of deaths with 55,293, while the confirmed cases total 505,751 as of August 13, 2020.
Factbox: AstraZeneca’s potential coronavirus vaccine
Below are the main details of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine hopeful and its supply and production deals. Source Reuters.
- – The shot, called AZD1222 or ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, is a recombinant viral vector vaccine developed by Oxford University.
- It was licensed to AstraZeneca in April.
- The vaccine candidate uses a weakened version of a common-cold virus that encodes instructions for making proteins from the novel coronavirus to build immunity.
- The shot is likely to provide protection for about a year, and the company is leaning towards a two-dose strategy for the potential vaccine.
- AstraZeneca says it will be able to manufacture the vaccine at a few dollars per dose.
- According to Italy’s health ministry, an AZD1222 shot would cost about 2.5 euros ($2.8) per dose in Europe.
- India’s Serum Institute said it will price the shot at $3 per dose for the country and other emerging economies.
- AstraZeneca has said it does not expect to profit from the vaccine candidate during the pandemic.
- Costs in other regions have not been disclosed.
- AstraZeneca’s CEO said good data has come in so far on the shot, after early-stage clinical trials showed it was safe and produced an immune response.
- Late-stage trials are currently underway in Britain, Brazil and South Africa, and are due to start in the United States in the third quarter.
- Talks are ongoing with Mexico, and reports have said the Indian regulator has also given a nod for mid-to-late-stage trials.
- The vaccine could be rolled out by year-end, but there is no certainty of that, its lead developer said in July.
- Data from late-stage studies is expected by August to September.
- Delivery of the first doses is expected between September and October.
- Experts predict a safe and effective vaccine could take 12-18 months to develop.
- More than 2.4 billion
- With U.S. backing, AstraZeneca has tied up with IQVIA to speed up trials. Even before conclusive evidence of the vaccine’s success or failure, AstraZeneca has signed other deals to produce and supply the shot.