Mexico still Waiting for Most Swine Flu Vaccines

By: Catherine E. Shoichet - AP Writer
By: Catherine E. Shoichet - AP Writer

MEXICO CITY (AP) - Mexico - the epicenter of last year's swine
flu outbreak - has received less than half of the 30 million
vaccine doses it ordered last year, the country's health secretary
said Tuesday.

Health Secretary Jose Angel Cordova said Mexico has struggled to
secure enough doses because there are no factories in Mexico
producing the vaccine. Meanwhile, some countries have started to
sell surplus swine flu vaccines.

"We had to wait in the second line to buy the vaccine, because
obviously, the first shipments were for the countries that make the
vaccine," he said.

After the first case of the H1N1 virus in the world was
confirmed in Mexico last April, drug makers began preparing
vaccines to control a potential pandemic.

Mexican officials ordered 30 million doses of the vaccine,
including 20 million doses from the French company Sanofi Pasteur
and 10 million doses from London-based GlaxoSmithKline. But when
they realized most doses might not arrive until February or March,
they brokered a deal to borrow 5 million doses from Canada.

Cordova said 12 million doses of the vaccine have arrived in
Mexico, including the loan from Canada.

"What you have here is a glaring example that access to
vaccines is determined by who has the money to buy them, not
necessarily who needs them the most," said Orin Levine, director
of the International Vaccine Access Center at Johns Hopkins
University.

But despite the difficulty of getting doses, Cordova said
Mexico's vaccination program was on track, with officials hoping to
vaccinate 24 million Mexicans by March in a country of more than
105 million people.

Experts say countries like Mexico can cope with delays in
vaccine distribution this year, since the H1N1 resurgence is milder
than officials originally feared. But such imbalances may become a
more serious problem in future outbreaks.

"It could cause very severe tensions internationally," said
David Heymann, a former World Health Organization official who now
works at the London-based Chatham House think tank.

Cordova said Mexico hopes to avoid future shortages by producing
the vaccine within their country's borders.

French drug maker Sanofi-Aventis has announced plans to open a
manufacturing plant in Mexico that will produce 25 million flu
vaccine doses a year starting in 2012.


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