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Argentina, Mexico line up to produce AstraZeneca, Oxford coronavirus vaccine

Argentina and Mexico will together manufacture AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford’s experimental coronavirus vaccine, with plans to produce enough of the shot to cover most of Latin America.Under the deal, Argentina’s mAbxience laboratory will produce the active ingredient for the shot, and packaging will take place in Mexico. The agreement covers the manufacturing of at least 150 million doses and perhaps as many as 250 million, enough for every Latin American outside of Brazil.The latest agreement follows reports that Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro earmarked 1.9 billion reais, or about $350 million, to buy and later produce the AstraZeneca vaccine in his country. It also continues a string of deals AstraZeneca has signed to help supply its vaccine to countries across the globe.

Like other companies with vaccine hopefuls, AstraZeneca is rushing to line up supply deals with countries around the world before obtaining proof that its shot can prevent coronavirus infections or COVID-19. The hope is that these moves can help inoculation campaigns begin immediately once a vaccine succeeds in clinical trials and is approved.

The latest deals are especially critical for Latin America, which has been hard hit by waves of coronavirus infections. In Brazil, 3.2 million people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and more than 104,000 have died, numbers that represent a health crisis second only to the U.S. in severity.

Brazil’s agreement calls for an initial 100 million doses, enough to vaccinate about half the country, Reuters reported. When the supply runs out, Brazil will then produce the vaccine on a local level.

The country has already become a magnet for clinical trials; AstraZeneca and Oxford in June announced Brazil as the site of the first Phase 3 study of a coronavirus vaccine candidate in Latin America. Brazil is also one of the countries included in a large-scale trial being run by partners BioNTech and Pfizer.

Argentina expects its deal to offer priority access to the vaccine, should it prove successful. Under an agreement with AstraZeneca and Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim’s foundation, the vaccine should cost three to four dollars a dose, Argentinian President Alberto Fernández said. Argentina estimated it could become available in the first half of next year.

With late-stage trials underway in the U.K., Brazil and South Africa, AstraZeneca’s shot is one of the furthest along in clinical development. Officials recently signaled on a conference call that those studies may be enough to support regulatory clearance, rather than waiting for the results from another large trial expected to soon begin in the U.S.

The company has pledged not to make a profit on it during the pandemic and has secured enough manufacturing capacity for more than 2 billion doses globally. The U.S. in May contracted for least 300 million of those doses.

AstraZeneca has also cut supply deals with the U.K. government, the Serum Institute of India and the Inclusive Vaccines Alliance, a consortium of European countries.