Mexico makes nearly $160 million down payment for COVAX vaccine plan

FILE PHOTO: A woman holds a small bottle labeled with a "Vaccine COVID-19" sticker and a medical syringe in this illustration taken April 10, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

(Corrects the 10th October story to say that payment was made to Gavi, not the WHO in first paragraph. Clarifies that the WHO supports COVAX.)

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico’s government announced on Saturday that it made a $159.88 million payment to secure access to COVID-19 vaccines through the World Health Organization-backed COVAX plan as countries across the globe race to secure supplies.

The COVAX Facility is a multilateral initiative running trials on several potential vaccines. The payment made to Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance, which administers COVAX, will allow Mexico to acquire enough doses of a vaccine to immunize up to a fifth of the country’s population of around 125 million people, the foreign ministry said.

The foreign ministry statement added that the government had presented the “risk guarantee” paperwork for another $20.6 million, which it described as part of the contractually required commitments to access the eventual vaccine supply. The statement did not provide additional details on the second payment.

According to the health ministry, Mexico has confirmed nearly 810,000 cases of the highly-contagious respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus, along with more than 83,000 recorded deaths, though both likely represent only a fraction of the true number of infections and fatalities due to little testing.

The government signed its COVAX contract late last month.

Reporting by Mexico City newsroom; Editing by Aurora Ellis