(Reuters) Mexico aims to conduct late-stage clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccines in development by Johnson & Johnson and two Chinese companies within months, the foreign minister said on Tuesday, adding that the goal was to secure access to the drugs.
Mexico has signed memorandums of understanding with J&J and Chinese companies CanSino Biologics Inc and Walvax Biotechnology Co Ltd, Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said at news conference.
Ebrard said the trials would start between September and January, depending on approval from Mexico’s food and drug agency.
More than 150 vaccines are being developed and tested around the world to stop the COVID-19 pandemic, with 25 in human clinical trials, according to the World Health Organization.
Russia is the first country to approve a COVID-19 vaccine, which it named “Sputnik V” for foreign markets, an official said on Tuesday.
Ebrard said a goal of taking part in trials was to ensure that Mexico has access to treatments and vaccines, a reminder of the growing anxiety in developing countries that they could be left behind in initial distribution of such drugs.
“This is what worries President (Andres Manuel) Lopez Obrador, that we have it on time,” Ebrard said.
Several other emerging markets in Asia and the Middle East have followed a similar strategy of “vaccine diplomacy,” consultancy Oxford Business Group highlighted in a report on Tuesday.
Mexico has already lobbied in world forums, including at the G20 group of nations and the United Nations, to secure equitable access for an eventual vaccine.
Large-scale, phase three human testing for the J&J unit Janssen Pharmaceuticals’ candidate could start in the second half of September, the company has previously said.
Johnson & Johnson kicked off early U.S. human safety trials in July after releasing details of a study in monkeys that showed its best-performing vaccine candidate offered strong protection in a single dose.
Walvax’s experimental vaccine is currently under early testing at a Chinese military research institute.
CanSino Biologics’ vaccine candidate is already in clinical trials. The company is also collaborating with Canada’s National Research Council to “pave the way” for future trials in Canada, the research council in May.
Latin America’s second largest economy has suffered more than 50,000 deaths from COVID-19, according to official data, making it the third country with the most deaths globally.
It ranks 13th adjusted for deaths per capita, according to the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
Source: Reuters; Reporting by Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Alistair Bell