COVID-19 vaccine diplomacy: Mexico courts allies across ideological spectrum

MEXICO CITY: Mexico is pressing ahead with an effort to forge COVID-19 vaccine alliances across a wide ideological spectrum of countries from France to Cuba, as a World Health Organization (WHO) vaccine initiative will fall short of its needs.

Mexico joined in early June the WHO's global COVAX plan, which aims to deliver at least 2 billion doses of approved vaccines by the end of next year and ensure "equitable access".

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But Martha Delgado, a Mexican deputy foreign minister whom President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador put in charge of Mexico's international response, told Reuters its share of that program was unlikely to be enough to provide the roughly 200 million vaccine doses Mexicans will need.

"We can't depend on it," said Delgado. "COVAX promises to help with 20 per cent of the population – we need a bigger quantity of vaccines and so do other countries as well."

READ: Commentary: Making, distributing COVID-19 vaccine in good time may depend on India's manufacturing might

Delgado's boss, Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard, has been reporting regularly to Lopez Obrador about the latest developments in the effort to secure a vaccine – or vaccines – that will curtail Mexico's coronavirus outbreak, she said, an effort embracing all major superpowers and their allies.

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Left-wing populist Lopez Obrador has raised eyebrows in some quarters by forging a close alliance with US President Donald Trump. But Ebrard has also assiduously courted China, which has provided Mexico with such equipment as ventilators and masks. And Lopez Obrador has offered to personally test the Russian vaccine despite misgivings among some scientists.

The foreign ministry underscored, in an emailed statement, that "vaccine nationalism" should be avoided because "no one will be safe until everyone is safe, and for that reason, negotiation, diplomacy and multilateralism play a crucial role".

READ: WHO calls for end to COVID-19 'vaccine nationalism'

Delgado said her daily schedule is packed talking to healthcare sector representatives, ambassadors, foreign ministries, laboratories and doctors.

"We have chosen to do this via our diplomatic channels, get access to information and pharmaceutical companies through cooperation with other countries," Delgado said.

"Why go this route? Firstly, the countries themselves are going to certify their vaccines, their safety, not the pharmaceutical companies.

"And secondly because Mexico has diplomatic prestige," said Delgado, pointing to a United Nations resolution it successfully sponsored to guarantee universal access to medicines, vaccines and medical equipment to face COVID-19.

The strategy seems to be working.

READ: When can you get a COVID-19 vaccine? Five things you should know

Mexico will take part in clinical trials of the Italian GRAd-COV2 vaccine and has agreed for 2,000 volunteers to participate in trials of Russia's Sputnik V vaccine.

It has also struck a deal to produce pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca's vaccine. In addition, it is looking to participate in phase three trials with French drug-maker Sanofi, Johnson & Johnson's Janssen unit and Chinese companies CanSino Biologics and Walvax Biotechnology, all of which have agreed to guarantee access to their vaccines if successful.

It plans to talk to Cuba about its so-called Soberana 01, or Sovereign 01, vaccine and tRead More – Source