© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: COVID-19 Vaccination in Mexico City
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – AstraZeneca’s (NASDAQ 🙂 COVID-19 vaccine packaging and distribution in Mexico had been delayed due to a complex certification process that led to major changes at a factory, the Foreign Relations minister said on Tuesday. Foreign of Mexico. Mexico had not finished producing doses of the vaccine from shipments of active ingredient that have already arrived in the country because its health regulator had to first inspect a local laboratory and certify that the batches were pure and without defects, said Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard. It said COFEPRIS, the regulator, had made 185 “observations” during a visit to local manufacturer Laboratorios Liomont, which previously did flu shots and is expected to start shipping the doses in early April. “They almost had to make another factory,” Ebrard said, speaking at a regular government press conference about Liomont. “You are talking about health, life … so you have to be very strict in any medicine, with one more vaccine, and even more so when the vaccine is so recent.” In partnership with the governments of Mexico and Argentina, AstraZeneca plans to produce millions of doses of the vaccine, developed with the University of Oxford, for distribution throughout the region. The plan has significant funding from the foundation of Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim. Liomont and a spokesman for the Mexican Ministry of Health did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Mexico has received at least two shipments of the active ingredient in the vaccine, which were to be packaged locally for around seven million doses that are not yet ready, according to government data. To accelerate its vaccine campaign, which is now targeting older adults, Mexico also imported the first 870,000 doses of 2 million planned doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from India on Sunday. Shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine also resumed after global delays, with one flight landing in Monterrey on Tuesday and another later in the capital, Mexico City. The government said Tuesday’s shipments would provide about 494,000 doses. Argentine President Alberto Fernández will visit the Liomont plant during an upcoming trip to Mexico, Ebrard said.