By Anthony Harrup 

MEXICO CITY -- Mexico and Argentina have reached agreement with U.K. pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca PLC to produce for Latin America the Covid-19 vaccine that it is developing with Oxford University.

Clinical trials under way are expected to be completed in November or December, and production could begin in early 2021 if they are successful.

Laboratories in Argentina and Mexico will make the vaccine, and it will be distributed across Latin America and the Caribbean. Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim's foundation will contribute to the cost of starting production.

"The purpose isn't to profit but to guarantee that Latin America has access to this vaccine," Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said Thursday at a news conference.

Argentine President Alberto Fern√°ndez said the agreement would ensure that Argentina has early access to the eventual vaccine at a reasonable price, starting in the first half of 2021.

The final formulation and packaging will be done in Mexico, and the vaccine will be exported to countries in the region whose governments request it. Latin America's largest and most populous country, Brazil, has a separate agreement with AstraZeneca and is among countries participating in the clinical trials.

Initially it is expected that the laboratories would produce between 150 million and 250 milllion doses, but that could increase to more than 400 million, said Sylvia Varela, chief executive for AstraZeneca in Mexico.

Ms. Varela said that the cost of making and supplying the vaccine appears to be lower in Latin America than in other regions, such as Europe, and that the price per dose isn't expected to be above $4. The Mexican government has said it plans to make the vaccine available free of charge for Mexicans.

Write to Anthony Harrup at anthony.harrup@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

August 13, 2020 12:16 ET (16:16 GMT)

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