MOSCOW (Reuters) -Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard on Wednesday played down delays in shipments of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine during a trip to Moscow where he worked out a deal to produce the shot domestically to speed up its rollout.
Mexico has relied heavily on foreign vaccines, including Sputnik, to supplement its slow vaccination campaign, but delays have hampered efforts to cover its population of 126 million.
“Virtually all companies have had delays,” Ebrard said in audio comments shared by his ministry. “There’s not a single one that has 100% met its delivery schedules for different reasons.”
Russia has shipped just over a million Sputnik V doses to Mexico to date, far fewer than the number originally slated. Mexico said in February it planned to receive 7.4 million doses of Sputnik V by April and 16.6 million more shots in May.
Mexico has signed an agreement to acquire 24 million doses.
Ebrard said Mexico was one of the countries that had thus far received the most Sputnik vaccines.
Earlier, he announced that Mexico’s state-run vaccine manufacturer Birmex would handle the final packaging and filling of the vaccine.
Bottling the Russian shot in Mexico could start as early as May, the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), which markets the vaccine abroad, said on Twitter.
About a million people in Mexico had been vaccinated with Sputnik V thus far, Ebrard said.
“The results are very positive, which speaks of the quality of science and technological development in (Russia),” he said.
Ebrard said the vaccine’s active ingredient would be sent to Mexico from Russia, though that could change in due course.
“If we had the packaging capacity in Mexico as we’re doing now with (Chinese vaccine) CanSino or AstraZeneca, the possibilities of having a greater number of doses would increase,” he added.
(Reporting by Polina Ivanova in Moscow; additional reporting by Cassandra Garrison, Raul Cortes and Sharay Angulo in Mexico City; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Mark Heinrich)