coronavirus

Mexico to use US-donated vaccines to restore activity at border

The Mexican government has said that the one million Janssen doses from the Biden administration will be administered to the 18-40 age group in northern states such as Sonora and Baja California

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (r) and Secretary of Foreign Affairs Marcelo Ebrard during a conference call with US Vice President Kamala Harris on June 3.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (r) and Secretary of Foreign Affairs Marcelo Ebrard during a conference call with US Vice President Kamala Harris on June 3.PRESIDENCIA DE MÉXICO / Reuters

The one million doses of the Janssen Covid-19 vaccine that the United States has donated to Mexico will be distributed along the northern border, according to Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. The head of state said the single-shot vaccine would be administered among the 18-40 age group in 39 municipalities along the US border in a bid to restore economic activity and commerce between the two countries. Border crossings are currently restricted to essential travel due to the coronavirus pandemic. “The intention is that vaccination in Mexico will advance at a similar rate to that of the United States,” said Marcelo Ebrard, Mexico’s secretary of foreign affairs.

The plan to use the Janssen vaccine to reactivate trade at the US border was an order from López Obrador, who has unveiled “a special vaccination plan for the northern border.”

Mexico has so far received 40 million vaccines and administered 33 million doses

“We believe that with these measures all of the sanitary conditions will be in place for the United States to agree to resume activities, if not all of them then a large majority, so that the economic, commercial and personal impact that has been caused in the border area can be brought to an end, a situation that has been extremely serious because it has now been over a year,” said Ebrard in reference to the partial closure of the world’s busiest border crossing due to the coronavirus pandemic and the campaign to vaccinate the 18-40 age group in the northern regions. The six Mexican states the government has chosen to concentrate on are Baja California, Sonora, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo León and Tamaulipas.

The vaccine shipment from Janssen, which is a subsidiary of US multinational Johnson & Johnson, will cover around a third of the inhabitants of those six border states in the targeted age group. The Mexican government will have to obtain a further 1.9 million doses of the vaccine, either through a purchase agreement with Johnson & Johnson or via another donation from the Joe Biden administration, which has embarked on a campaign to provide six million shots from the US surplus to a dozen Latin American countries. On June 7, the White House unveiled plans to make 25 million doses available worldwide as part of its vaccine-sharing commitments.

“It shows that we have a good relationship, this is a plan we have been working on. It is necessary to act with solidarity and everyone has to help each other for the common good,” López Obrador said. The Mexican president announced the arrival of the vaccine shipment moments before the White House made an official statement, after a phone call with US Vice President Kamala Harris.

The Mexican authorities have not yet said when the vaccine rollout along the border will commence but the matter was discussed between López Obrador and Harris during the US vice-president’s visit on June 8, where she reiterated the Biden administration’s determination to dissuade migrants from the Northern Triangle of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala from attempting to reach the US via Mexico. Harris also said a visit to the US-Mexico border was on her agenda.

The Janssen vaccine will be the sixth to be distributed in Mexico, but only the second that requires a single shot, after the CanSino vaccine from China. This is a key advantage to the rollout in the view of the Mexican government, as it the fact that the shipment will not require a network of deep-freeze facilities for distribution.

It is necessary to act with solidarity and everyone has to help each other for the common good
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador

Although the Janssen vaccine was among the first to be offered, the Mexican authorities have also taken up other options: the Oxford-AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech, Russia’s Sputnik V and two Chinese vaccines, CanSino and Sinovac. Mexico has contracts in place for around 250 million doses in total and the position of the medical authorities is that it is no longer necessary to seek further purchase agreements to meet demand. After Mexico’s health regulator granted emergency use authorization for the Janssen vaccine on May 27, Deputy Health Minister Hugo López-Gatell said that Mexico had a “decent supply” through its acquisition of the other five vaccines.

However, another factor that may lead Mexico to seek to further bolster its supply is that the government wants to ramp up vaccination in tourism areas. The state of Quintana Roo, which contains popular destinations including Cancún, Tulum and Riviera Maya, is currently on the highest alert level after five weeks of resurgent coronavirus cases which have led to fears the region may be facing a new wave. Baja California Sur, where one of Mexico’s most-visited destinations, Los Cabos, is located, is in a similar situation albeit one the health authorities consider to be lower risk than Quintana Roo, according to the most recent reports on the spread of the coronavirus. In Mexico’s Caribbean resorts, state governments are in negotiations with the federal authorities to have tourism workers included among priority groups for vaccination.

June is viewed as a key month for Mexico’s vaccine rollout as the authorities expect to have around 25 million doses available. To date, the country has received 40 million vaccines and has administered 33 million doses. The government’s objective now is to speed up the rollout among the 40-49 age group, with the overall aim of vaccinating the entire adult population by October.

English version by Rob Train.

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