Mexico uses human trials as path to secure future Covid-19 vaccines

Mexico has agreed to host human trials of seven Covid-19 vaccines to strengthen relations with pharmaceutical companies in case limited production capacity leads to a battle for doses. “We are saving places in the queue for the purchase of something that does not yet exist,” said Martha Delgado, a deputy foreign minister, who has led Mexico’s efforts to secure vaccines.

“You cannot wait to see it before getting in line . . . there is a risk some countries will say ‘this is all for me’,” she told the Financial Times in an interview. Mexico’s willingness to host phase 3 trials reflects wider concerns among many middle and lower-income countries that they could struggle to secure sufficient vaccine doses once a Covid-19 shot is finally approved for use.

Dealmaking by the US, UK, EU, Japan and other rich nations has meant wealthy countries representing just 13 per cent of the world’s population have already bought more than half of the leading vaccine candidates’ promised doses, according to Oxfam.

To keep up, countries such as Mexico have had to adopt other strategies. Latin America’s largest economy will host vaccine trials for US companies Johnson & Johnson and Novavax, China’s CanSino, Russia’s Gamaleya Institute, Germany’s CureVac, France’s Sanofi Pasteur and Italy’s ReiThera.

Mexico has been abnormally aggressive in pursuing agreements to run trials . . . it is very much the case that Mexico is leading the pack right now,” said Jonathan Terluk, deputy director of operations at Empra, a risk consultancy, who has been studying the vaccine race.

Ms. Delgado said Mexico was not using the population as “guinea pigs” but acknowledged that a commitment to gain access to doses had been part of its discussions. Pharmaceutical companies say future access to vaccines is never tied to a country’s willingness to host human trials. However, some groups said that participating in the development of a vaccine would be recognized in negotiations over future supplies.

She believes that those countries and organizations that provide critical support for our vaccine research and development . . . should receive priority in consideration of the allocation of the vaccine given their enablement of global access,” the company said, in response to questions. CureVac said it would “appropriately recognize the value and importance of the contribution of the clinical trial centers.”

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