News Article

Diplomacy, Solidarity Stand Against Worst Global Pandemic

By Miriam Bello | Wed, 09/08/2021 - 11:24

To contain the COVID-19 pandemic, Mexico has strengthened international alliances to secure the necessary vaccines, medicines and medical equipment to care for its population. The country’s multilateral agreements have helped promote universal access to vaccines, argued Martha Delgado Peralta, Deputy Minister for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights at the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“Since march 2020, (the Ministry of Foreign Affairs) has worked with other public and private institutions to guarantee the reception of donations from other countries. To date, we have revied the equivalent of MX$200 million (US$10 million) in donations,” said Delgado.

From the start of the pandemic, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was appointed to support, by all means possible, the acquisition of medical supplies. Later, this goal expanded to the acquisition of vaccines to inoculate all Mexicans. Minister of Foreign Affairs Marcelo Ebrard was appointed by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to coordinate all diplomatic activities so Mexico could properly face the COVID-19 pandemic.

To achieve this mission, the Ministry coordinated three primary action areas to face COVID-19: donations, access to personal protection equipment (PPE) and access to vaccines. “Through our efforts, we managed to increase Mexico’s ventilator capacity by 170 percent, helping reduce the country’s hospital burden,” said Delgado.

Mexico is receiving vaccines at an accelerated pace as part of López Obrador’s goal to have applied at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine to all Mexicans by October. “The number of vaccines we have received is enough to inoculate entire countries, such as Spain, Peru or Germany.” These deliveries are part of vaccine contracts that have given Mexico over 120 million vaccines. “Be sure that we have all those vaccines and they will get to every person in Mexico,” said Delgado.

While vaccine access has dominated the news, Delgado explains that the Ministry’s actions extend much further. “We managed to accommodate Mexico’s participation on phase III of clinical trials with pharmaceuticals CanSino, Janssen, CureVac and Novavax.” The Ministry also created a Mexico-China air bridge, which has coordinated around 54 flights to Mexico. These include 25 flights carrying medical devices, 25 flights carrying vaccines from SinoVac and CanSino, 2 flights carrying private donations and 2 flights from private hospitals.”

The Ministry has heavily supported COFEPRIS to accelerate the access to medicines and vaccines. “We have intervened for the proper and timely access to the results of clinical trials carried out globally so approvals can happen as soon as possible,” said Delgado. She also explained that the Ministry is trying to position COFEPRIS as part of the world committee on pharmaceutical regulation, “which will enhance the credibility of our agency and position it again at a world class level. “

These efforts are not one-sided. The Ministry has also joined multilateral agreements and mechanisms to support the universal delivery of vaccines. “We, for example, joined the (Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations) CEPI in May 2020 to achieve universal access to vaccines.  As such, the country joined COVAX, led by CEPI, to receive and distribute about 2 billion vaccine doses.” COVAX’s goal is to distribute at least 20 percent of the vaccines each country acquires to other countries.

“We cannot leave out the donations that Mexico has encouraged and carried out. We have donated 1 million doses to Central American and Caribbean countries which requested them as they were struggling to start or complete their vaccination processes,” said Delgado. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will leave the rest of this coordination task to the Ministry of Health, so by 2022 the health sector will be in charge of coordinating vaccine supply.

Mexico was also in favor of the resolution 74/274 on the UN’s General Assembly, an initiative that further promoted international collaboration and access to vaccinations, explained Delgado. “The country was not shy to share its view on equal access to vaccines globally.” Mexico is also advocating for access to vaccines at the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) as part of its efforts to support Latin America. “It is through CELAC’s efforts that we achieved the joint collaboration to produce and package the AstraZeneca vaccine in Argentina and Mexico, respectively.”

Through the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (CEPAL), Mexico shows solidarity not only through vaccines but also through humanitarian donations for countries facing severe crises like Haiti. “We have sent humanitarian aid ships to help them address the politic, economic, ecological and social crisis they are facing. Mexico has shown solidarity with its own region first.”

Much of the Ministry’s work aims to strengthen Mexico’s position on the economic sphere. “We should not forget that the country has a large capacity to export pharmaceutical products to central America and Latin America.” Delgado said that the Ministry of Health will be, as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was, supported by the nation’s customs department, BIRMEX and SEDENA, among others.

In May 2020, the Ministry met with Mexican scientists to encourage the development of the national COVID-19 vaccine “Patria,” which is being developed through joint efforts from Mexican universities including Univeridad Autónoma de Quretaro, Universidad Michoacana de San Nicolas de Hidalgo, UNAM Centro de Biomedicina, IMSS and ITESM. During the meeting both parties also addressed funding and preparation of future epidemics.

Miriam Bello Miriam Bello Journalist and Industry Analyst