Mexico seeks US help as AstraZeneca admits vaccine delay in Latin America
By Dave Graham and Adriana Barrera
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Friday that the United States would likely send his country an additional 5 million doses of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine, as the company admitted production in America Latin had suffered multiple setbacks.
Mexico is grappling with late local AstraZeneca production and shortages in shipments from overseas suppliers and has asked the United States to help with more vaccines. The demand comes in addition to some 2.7 million doses of AstraZeneca sent by Washington to Mexico in March.
“They are likely to help us with a loan, while the AstraZeneca plant in Mexico is operational,” Lopez Obrador said at a regular press conference.
The US State Department did not respond to a request for comment.
Under an agreement reached last year, the mAbxience lab in Argentina makes the active ingredient in the vaccine and ships it for bottling at a factory in Mexico owned by a company called Liomont. The plans are to be delivered throughout Latin America, with the exception of Brazil, which has a separate production agreement.
Argentina delivered shipments of the active ingredient to Mexico, but Liomont’s commercial production slipped from the original March target. In a statement shared with Reuters on Friday, AstraZeneca said deliveries of the shots would now begin before the end of June.
AstraZeneca said it regrets the setbacks, which it attributed to limited access to essential supplies, lower process throughputs than expected from initial vaccine batches and longer lead times to meet internal “site qualifications” for these lots.
“This will delay the launch of our vaccine in Latin American countries to be supplied from this supply chain,” AstraZeneca said, without giving further details on the cause of the problems.
The Mexican government said the Liomont plant had undergone major upgrades to produce the AstraZeneca vaccine and that the plant took longer than expected to gain regulatory approvals.
Liomont returned a request for comment to AstraZeneca.
An additional site in the United States will meet the target of 150 million doses for the region, excluding Brazil, this year, AstraZeneca said, but 80% of the injections will still be bottled at the Mexican plant.
The problems have affected vaccination programs in the region. The Argentine government officially requested a report on AstraZeneca production this week.
In Mexico, the problems were compounded by shipments of far fewer doses of Sputnik V than agreed from Russia and lower than expected coronavirus vaccine volumes from Pfizer Inc.
Reuters announced Thursday that Pfizer would ship doses manufactured at its US plant in Mexico for the first time.
(Reporting by Dave Graham; Additional reporting by Adriana Barrera and Lizbeth Diaz; Editing by Bill Berkrot, Grant McCool and Daniel Wallis)