Mexico City — Mexico aims to conduct late-stage clinical trials for Covid-19 vaccines in development by Johnson & Johnson (J&J) and two Chinese companies within months, the foreign minister said on Tuesday, adding that the goal is to secure access to the drugs.

Mexico has signed memorandums of understanding with J&J and Chinese companies CanSino Biologics and Walvax Biotechnology, 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 Organisation. 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 is to ensure 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 Andrés Manuel López Obrador, that we have it in 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 world forums, including the G20 and the UN, 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.

J&J kicked off early US 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.


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