The President of Argentina, Alberto Fernández, announced on Wednesday that his country, together with Mexico, will produce for Latin America the vaccine against the new coronavirus developed by the AstraZeneca laboratory in collaboration with the British University of Oxford.
"We hope to be able to start the production process as soon as possible," said Fernández at a press conference, who minutes later spoke with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
The Argentine president stressed that this step will allow Latin American countries to have access to the vaccine at affordable prices, at a cost of between 3 and 4 dollars per dose.
"It is great news that Mexico and Argentina are the reference points for the production of the vaccine and that we can thus bring a solution to the continent," the Argentinean president stressed.
Fernández, who met today with AstraZeneca representatives, reported that the laboratory signed an agreement with the Mexican foundation Slim - which will finance part of the production - to produce between 150 and 250 million doses for all Latin American countries, except Brazil.
The vaccine, which is currently in phase 3 of development, will be available for the first half of 2021 and will be distributed "equitably" among Latin American countries whose governments demand it.
"Latin American production will be in charge of Argentina and Mexico, and that will allow timely and sufficient access to the potential vaccine for all countries in the region," said Fernández.
In Argentina, Grupo Insud's mAbxience laboratory will be responsible for producing the active substance of the vaccine, while Mexico's Liomont laboratory will complete the formulation and packaging process.
Production will begin before the end of the experimental phase studies, so the development will be "at risk", because if the vaccine is not finally approved, all investment will be lost.
"This agreement highlights the high level of professionals, the quality of science and the manufacturing capabilities that our country has," said Agustin Lamas, president of AstraZeneca for the American Southern Cone.
For his part, Hugo Sigman, executive director of mAbxience, highlighted AstraZeneca's decision to choose the Argentine firm "for the technology transfer for the manufacture of the active substance of the vaccine".
Argentine Health Minister Ginés González García said that Oxford "is not the only alternative" and that Argentina is in talks with other potential providers.
Brazil, South Africa and recently the United States are participating in the later phases of assessing the effectiveness of the Oxford vaccine in patients, after an initial positive result with 1,000 people in the United Kingdom in the previous phase.
Argentina, for its part, is part, along with the United States, Germany and Brazil, of the clinical trials of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by the American pharmaceutical company Pfizer and the German company BioNTech.
The AstraZeneca and Oxford vaccines are in the most advanced batches in their development, together with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the modern US vaccine and three others developed in China.
All three Chinese vaccines are based on inactivated virus, the two of US origin use RNA techniques and Astrazeneca's focuses on a viral vector.
Meanwhile, Alberto Fernández sent a letter to Russian President Vladímir Putin on Tuesday to congratulate him on Russia's registration of the first vaccine against COVID-19, a letter in which the Argentine president stressed that both governments "are in favour of equal and non-discriminatory access to medicines and vaccines for all states.
"What we want is for Argentines to be able to immunize themselves as soon as possible against the risk of contagion. We celebrate and thank AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford for finding a place in Argentina to develop the vaccine, but whoever brings the vaccine first is going to be very welcome," said the president of Argentina, where the cases of COVID-19 to 268,574 and deaths total 5,213.