MEXICO CITY – Mexico has positioned itself as one of the countries exerting the most pressure on the United Nations to guarantee universal access to anti-COVID-19 vaccines, denouncing vaccine hoarding and/or monopolization by the richest nations and creating links with other Latin American nations like Argentina.
“What was raised (to the UN) was the need to review (and) accelerate mechanisms so that, while those (rich) countries have the right to move forward in their process of vaccination, the other countries can also gradually move forward,” Juan Ramon de la Fuente, Mexico’s ambassador to the UN, told EFE on Thursday.
He said that on Wednesday “practically all countries” that are members of the UN Security Council asked for General Assembly Resolution 74/274 to be applied to ensure that the Covax mechanism – which is designed to guarantee universal access to the vaccines – operates properly.
Up to now, the Covax mechanism has “not been enough” and, according to UN figures, of the 130 million initial vaccinations performed, “three-fourths of them were focused in just 10 countries.”
This is not the first time that Mexico has used its geopolitical importance to demand vaccines for the whole world, expressing criticism of the rich nations who are monopolizing the antidotes.
Nevertheless, Dr. Malaquias Lopez, a professor of Public Health at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), told EFE on Thursday that the hoarding of medications is not surprising and “it’s been an historical constant.”
He said that the countries that are currently accumulating vaccine doses are those who have the financial resources to develop them. “And it could even be idealistically impractical to ask that they not hoard them because those countries are not going to stop inoculating their population to provide vaccines to the poorest,” he added.
At the start of the pandemic, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and the World Health Organization created the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access fund, known as Covax.
The aim was to guarantee equitable access to the vaccines that were being developed against COVID-19. However, according to De la Fuente, “we’re facing a situation of enormous complexity where production of the vaccines is insufficient, where the demand exceeds supply, where the vaccines that are being produced are being hoarded by a few countries.”
Carolina Gomez, an epidemiologist and lecturer in Public Health, said that about 10 countries nowadays have two-thirds of the vaccine, adding that this leaves the rest of the world’s nations in an uncertain position and inhibits determining how the mechanism to acquire the drugs is truly working.
“We’re not clear about this will be or how we got to this very adverse situation,” she told EFE.
According to De la Fuente, currently there are about 130 countries “where not a single vaccination has been performed” and so it is “very appropriate for the Security Council to go back and review it.”
Along those lines, Lopez said that this was foreseeable, since “the countries with more money always will be those who have the advantage and, in this case, if they’re developing the vaccine, it’s natural for them to want to keep it.”
Mexico, with its 126 million citizens, is one of the Latin American countries that has worked hardest to be able to vaccinate its population, although on the ground the program is moving forward slowly and amid assorted obstacles.
Currently, Mexico has been promised delivery of 34.4 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, 79.4 million doses of AstraZeneca’s, 35 million doses of CanSino’s, 24 million doses of Russia’s Sputnik V, 10 million doses of China’s Sinovac and 51.1 million doses via the Covax platform.
But Mexico’s activities have extended outside its borders and since the start of the pandemic it has been clamoring to ensure that the most disadvantaged countries have access to medical supplies, medications and the vaccines.
During a virtual G20 meeting on April 3, 2020, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador urged that UN to control commerce in medications and healthcare equipment, warning that there was “scarcity” and “hoarding” by “those who have the greatest economic potential.”
In addition, he urged that when vaccines started to become available, they be distributed equitably among all countries.
That same month, Mexico presented a proposal before the UN calling for the international body to regulate and verify equitable distribution of medical supplies to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, a move that was backed by 179 UN member states.
It also presented a cooperation plan to ensure global access to medications, vaccines and medical equipment.
In addition, Mexico and Argentina sealed an agreement last August that was seen as a regional achievement, closing a deal with AstraZeneca for both countries to produce and distribute that firm’s future vaccine – which is much more economical than other vaccines – in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Gomez said that although Mexico’s demand is valid, it could have little impact since, as far as the WHO is concerned, the country has not managed the pandemic well.
“According to the WHO, we’re a country that has not had an effective strategy to limit the number of infections and there was also no vaccination plan,” she said.
Along those lines, Lopez said that Mexico is not a “very influential country in the world” in terms of getting hoarding to stop. And he added that the economic factor plays a fundamental role “since the countries that have the resources will be those who have the vaccines.”
He went on to say that only when countries have a vaccine surplus will they begin to distribute their extra vaccine to countries with fewer resources.
Nowadays, Latin American and the Caribbean are seeing greater delays in obtaining access and distributing the anti-COVID vaccines.
Chile is the country that is out front in vaccinating its people with more than 2.3 million doses in the arms of Chileans already, or 12.43 doses per 100 residents, while Brazil stands at 2.82, Argentina at 1.36 and Mexico at 0.84.
Cuba, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Uruguay and Haiti still have no vaccine and Paraguay is scheduled to receive its first doses on Thursday.
De la Fuente said that after the meeting on Wednesday, the US and China spoke about making 10 million doses available via the Covax platform, which he noted “is very good news” for the world.