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Thursday, January 20, 2022

What is the holdup with Mexico’s Patria COVID-19 vaccine?

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Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Born in Mérida, Carlos Rosado van der Gracht is a Mexican/Canadian blogger, photographer and adventure expedition leader. He holds degrees in multimedia, philosophy and translation from universities in Mexico, Canada and Norway. Sign up for the Yucatán Roundup, a free newsletter, which delivers the week's top headlines every Monday.
The development of Mexico’s Patria COVID-19 vaccine has likely been hampered by a lack of investment and political will, as well as a lack of transparency. Photo: Courtesy 

The development of Mexico’s Patria COVID-19 vaccine appears to be nearly a year behind schedule.

In April, it was reported that the first phase of clinical trials was scheduled to be completed by late May, but according to recent reports from the federal government, they have not even begun. 

The idea of a Mexican-made COVID-19 vaccine was first introduced by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who assured the public that the vaccine would be ready by December 2021.

The president is now claiming that the Patria vaccine will be available to the public sometime in 2022, but has given no precise timeline. 

No reason for the delay has been offered, but it has been widely speculated that the lack of progress has to do with a lack of infrastructure and financial support. 

Like most other Latin American countries, Mexico has relied on importing shipments of foreign-made COVID-19 vaccines from the United States, Europe, China, and Russia.

But the worldwide demand of these vaccines has meant that the speed of vaccination programs has been tempered by availability.

Part of the reasoning behind the development of the Patria vaccine has to do with economics. Though the exact amount of money spent by Mexico on purchasing COVID-19 vaccines thus far is not known, it is likely to run into the billions of USD. 

Earlier: US ambassador joins governors of Mexico’s southeast for bilateral summit in Mérida

Though producing a domestic COVID-19 vaccine makes a great deal of sense financially, very little has been said regarding investment in Mexico’s pharmaceutical and research infrastructure.

Instead, the responsibility of developing the vaccine has been handed over to Mexican drug manufacturer Avimex, with the cooperation of several laboratories and Mexico’s national university.

Other COVID-19 vaccine candidates are also being developed by the State University of Michoacan as well as the UNAM’s Center for Biomedical Research. But like the Patria, these vaccines appear to be far from primetime. 

Because details regarding the vaccine itself and its development have been so opaque, it is difficult to discern how far along development actually is. 

Critics of the government have noted that the development of the Patria vaccine is not only essential from a public health perspective, but also from the standpoint of national security.

But it would appear that instead of pouring money into its health sector and vaccine research, the federal government continues to prefer investing in flashy projects, including the Mayan Train and unnecessary airports.

As long as Mexico relies on foreign governments and companies to address the current COVID-19 pandemic, to say nothing of future health crises, the country will always be subject to political and economic pressures it need not suffer. 

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