At least half a dozen national vaccine trials against COVID-19 are underway in Mexico. Between three and five of these projects are supported by the National Council for Science and Technology (Conacyt).
“By presidential mandate, during 2021 it becomes a priority for Conacyt to develop and produce a national vaccine against COVID-19 and there is no reason not to achieve it,” said María Elena Álvarez-Buylla, director of Conacyt.
He also warned that in technological development and scientific research there is always risk, “but we will do our best.”
Currently, thousands of vials, containers with the dose of a vaccine, are being classified, labeled and prepared to ship every hour in a simulated production of a national vaccine developed by Mexicans, CNN published after an exclusive access.
As they detailed, if everything goes as planned, millions of doses of vaccines could be produced by the end of 2021.
This would allow Mexico to vaccinate its almost 130 million inhabitants in case there are difficulties in obtaining the doses from abroad.
However, vaccine deadlines are usually analyzed in terms of years and not months, so time will determine the future of these projects.
For now, to begin a generalized vaccination campaign, Mexico depends on vaccines developed abroad, with two agreements standing out:
- COVAX Initiative: more than 25 million doses will come from agreements within the COVAX program, the initiative supported by the World Health Organization (WHO) whose objective is to guarantee vaccines for developing countries.
- Trade agreements– Purchase agreements for up to 90.9 million doses were secured with vaccine producers, specifically Pfizer (US) AstraZeneca (UK), and CanSinoBIO (China).
“International cooperation has an interesting role at this time because we do not feel alone,” Martha Delgado Peralta, Mexico’s undersecretary for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights, told CNN.
One of the trials in the initial phase that is being carried out in Mexico is the one directed by Edda Sciutto and Juan Pedro Laclette, at the National Autonomous University (UNAM) in Mexico City, to which CNN also had access.
Its potential vaccine uses a protein fragment that has been shown in animal studies to produce antibodies and a strong cellular response.
Unlike a vaccine that requires the injection of a whole killed virus, Sciutto believes that this variable is safer for eliciting an effective immune response.
To develop it, the team of researchers partnered with Mexican pharmaceutical company Neolpharma, which is trying to speed up the manufacturing process by using a system to produce proteins with genetically modified Escherichia coli bacteria.
“The production process has been simplified in an unprecedented way,” said the company’s industrial manager, Diego Ocampo.
Ocampo believes that these factors combined will allow the company to produce millions of vaccines if the testing phases are successfully passed.
In their facilities they have two machines that can each produce approximately 500,000 doses per day, depending on the final size of each dose. The research team plans to carry out Phase 1 trials during January.
Why is it necessary to get vaccinated?
Vaccination or immunization is a relatively minimally invasive and inexpensive form of prevention that significantly reduces the incidence of communicable diseases, such as hepatitis, influenza, meningitis, pneumonia, mumps, rotavirus, rubella, measles, chickenpox, or human papillomavirus (HPV). ).
Vaccines usually contain particles similar to those of the microorganisms that cause these types of diseases. This is to achieve that when injecting our immune system memorizes these particles so that it is able to respond correctly when it comes into contact with harmful microorganisms.
Unlike natural infections, the immunity provided by vaccines does not put the patient at risk of complications, and although skepticism towards vaccines or “anti-vaccines” has been promoted in recent years, the truth is that most reactions They can cause are mild, such as pain where the injection was given or fever.
Instead, the diseases against which vaccines are used can lead to paralysis, blindness or encephalitis, to death.
The WHO estimates that between 2 and 3 million lives are saved each year thanks to vaccination, although they point out that that number could even rise to 4.5 or 5 million.
Experts warn that good water hygiene, sanitation and safety are fundamental factors to prevent the transmission of diseases, but many times they are not enough, so vaccines are a great help.
When immunization rates drop, and we move away from what is known as herd immunization, there is a risk that many diseases that were considered eradicated will resurface.
Sources consulted: US National Library of Medicine, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CNN, World Health Organization.