By Anthony Esposito and Adriana Barrera
MEXICO CITY, Sept 6 (Reuters) - Mexico is working to produce
its own COVID-19 vaccines and could have one ready by next
spring, according to a researcher coordinating local efforts
amid a global race to tame a disease that has infected over
26.75 million people worldwide.
Esther Orozco, coordinator of the scientific group that
represents Mexico at the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness
Innovations, said research based on a virus that transmits the
avian Newcastle disease is the most viable candidate to produce
the first vaccine in Mexico.
Orozco said the vaccine, developed by the private firm
Laboratorio Avimex with researchers from Mexico's main public
university, UNAM, and the Mexican Social Security Institute, is
ready to start the first phase of testing with humans.
"They are advanced," Orozco told Reuters in an interview. "I
think it's going to be ready by spring or the start of summer."
She said the Avimex vaccine trials will begin with "dozens
of humans." A second stage will see "hundreds of patients"
before thousands of volunteers take part in final Phase 3
Avimex, normally dedicated to the manufacture of vaccines
and pharmaceutical products for animals, did not respond to a
request for comment.
Mexico has launched a global effort to build diplomatic and
commercial alliances to ensure it receives the approximately 200
million vaccine doses it estimates it will need for a disease
that has infected more than 623,000 people and killed at least
66,851 in Latin America's second-largest economy.
Mexico will take part in clinical trials of Italian and
Russian vaccines, and has also struck a deal to produce
pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca Plc's vaccine.
In addition, it is looking to participate in phase 3 trials
with French drugmaker Sanofi, Johnson & Johnson's
Janssen unit and Chinese companies CanSino Biologics Inc
and Walvax Biotechnology Co Ltd, all of
which have agreed to guarantee access to their vaccines if
Orozco said the Mexican vaccine will arrive "later" than
leading foreign candidates. But she noted that 7.5 billion
people on the planet will need to be inoculated, and the number
of vaccines may be double that figure if two doses are needed.
"The world is going to need much more than one vaccine," she
said. "Our hope is that Mexico is a part of this even if we're
not the first to cross the finish line."
(Reporting by Anthony Esposito and Adriana Barrera; Editing by
Drazen Jorgic and Dan Grebler)