MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexico is working to produce its own COVID-19 vaccines and could have one ready by next spring, according to a researcher coordinating local efforts amid a global race to tame a disease that has infected over 26.75 million people worldwide.
Esther Orozco, coordinator of the scientific group that represents Mexico at the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, said research based on a virus that transmits the avian Newcastle disease is the most viable candidate to produce the first vaccine in Mexico.
Orozco said the vaccine, developed by the private firm Laboratorio Avimex with researchers from Mexico’s main public university, UNAM, and the Mexican Social Security Institute, is ready to start the first phase of testing with humans.
“They are advanced,” Orozco told Reuters in an interview. “I think it’s going to be ready by spring or the start of summer.”
She said the Avimex vaccine trials will begin with “dozens of humans.” A second stage will see “hundreds of patients” before thousands of volunteers take part in final Phase 3 studies.
Avimex, normally dedicated to the manufacture of vaccines and pharmaceutical products for animals, did not respond to a request for comment.
Mexico has launched a global effort to build diplomatic and commercial alliances to ensure it receives the approximately 200 million vaccine doses it estimates it will need for a disease that has infected more than 623,000 people and killed at least 66,851 in Latin America’s second-largest economy.
Mexico will take part in clinical trials of Italian and Russian vaccines, and has also struck a deal to produce pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca Plc’s <AZN.L> vaccine.
In addition, it is looking to participate in phase 3 trials with French drugmaker Sanofi <SASY.PA>, Johnson & Johnson’s <JNJ.N> Janssen unit and Chinese companies CanSino Biologics Inc <6185.HK> and Walvax Biotechnology Co Ltd <300142.SZ>, all of which have agreed to guarantee access to their vaccines if successful.
Orozco said the Mexican vaccine will arrive “later” than leading foreign candidates. But she noted that 7.5 billion people on the planet will need to be inoculated, and the number of vaccines may be double that figure if two doses are needed.
“The world is going to need much more than one vaccine,” she said. “Our hope is that Mexico is a part of this even if we’re not the first to cross the finish line.”
(Reporting by Anthony Esposito and Adriana Barrera; Editing by Drazen Jorgic and Dan Grebler)