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Mexico turns to U.S. for vaccine help as AstraZeneca admits Latin American vaccine delay

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Posted: Monday, May 3, 2021. 6:29 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: The United States is to send five million more doses of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine to Mexico after a report of multiple setbacks in production and deliveries, according to Reuters.

It has not commented but President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador says they will request the addition to some 2.7 million AstraZeneca doses Washington sent to Mexico in March.

The active ingredient of the vaccine is manufactured in Argentina, then sent to Mexico for bottling at a factory owned by a company called Liomont. The shots are to be delivered across Latin America, excluding Brazil, which has a separate production deal.

Argentina has delivered cargos of the active ingredient to Mexico, but Liomont’s commercial production has slipped from an original target of March. 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 regretted the setbacks, which it attributed to limited access to critical supplies, lower-than-expected process yields from initial vaccine batches, and longer times to meet internal “site qualifications” for those batches.

“This will delay the launch of our vaccine in countries across Latin America to be supplied from this supply chain,” AstraZeneca said, without giving more details of what had caused the problems.

The Mexican government has said the Liomont factory has undergone major upgrades to produce the AstraZeneca vaccine, and that it has taken longer than expected for the factory to win regulatory approvals. 

An additional site in the United States will help meet the target of 150 million doses for the region, excluding Brazil, this year, AstraZeneca said, but 80% of the shots will still be bottled at the Mexico plant.

The problems have affected vaccination programs in the region. Argentina’s government this week formally requested a report on production from AstraZeneca. 

In Mexico, the problems have been compounded by deliveries of far fewer Sputnik V doses from Russia than had been agreed, and lower volumes than expected of Pfizer Inc’s coronavirus vaccines.

Reuters reported on Thursday that Pfizer will ship doses made in its U.S. plant to Mexico for the first time.

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