Important to get U.S. vaccine help along border, Mexican official says

Adriana Barrera and Cassandra Garrison
·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: First doses of AstraZeneca's coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccines provided by the U.S. government arrive in Mexico City

By Adriana Barrera and Cassandra Garrison

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico is ramping up requests for more COVID-19 shots from the United States, and in the coming days may ask for assistance vaccinating people along the countries' shared border, the Mexican government official in charge of vaccine diplomacy said.

Mexico has received 2.7 million doses of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine from the United States, but has not made progress on accessing larger U.S. stocks, deputy foreign minister for multilateral affairs Martha Delgado said in an interview with Reuters late last week.

"We are once again taking up dialogue to insist on this need," she said, ahead of an upcoming visit by Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard to the United States.

Mexico may also put forward a proposal to prioritize vaccination along its border with the United States, Delgado said, describing the issue as important and a concern in Mexico.

The proximity and human ties between populous towns and cities along the border means it is easy for the coronavirus to reinfect both sides.

The U.S.-Mexico border region, which stretches 3,175 km (1,973 miles), is home to at least 14.6 million people, according to government data from 2018.

Tens of thousands of Central Americans have trekked to the U.S. border in recent months, in a growing humanitarian challenge for U.S. President Joe Biden. Delgado did not specify whether a new proposal for vaccines in the border area would include migrants.

The supply of vaccines has become a global diplomatic tussle.

Mexico government officials on Friday declared the doses of AstraZeneca's vaccine shipped from the United States safe and approved by two health regulators after operations were halted at the U.S. plant that produced them due to contamination.

Following Delgado's interview with Reuters, a representative for her declined to comment on whether the issue could impact future vaccine agreements with the United States.

Ebrard will also make trips to Russia, China and India, as part of efforts to ensure supply agreements are honored.

Part of his agenda in the United States will be devoted to vaccines, including "scientific exchange," Delgado said.

Mexico has so far received more than 21 million shots, primarily from Pfizer, AstraZeneca, China's Sinovac and Cansino and Russia's Sputnik V.

But supply delays and shortages have hampered the campaign to vaccinate its population of 126 million.

The country has relied on deals with China and Russia amid gaps by Western suppliers and slow shipments through global COVAX facility mechanism, led by the GAVI vaccines alliance and the World Health Organization to promote equitable access.

Mexico was considering hosting Phase III trials for an additional Chinese vaccine, Delgado said. She declined to say which one.

(Reporting by Adriana Barrera and Cassandra Garrison; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Karishma Singh)