Mexico approves Russian Sputnik V vaccine, signs deal for supply

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico has approved emergency use of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine after signing a contract for millions of doses of the product, Deputy Health Minister Hugo Lopez-Gatell said on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: A view shows vials during the production of Gam-COVID-Vac, also known as Sputnik-V, vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at a facility of BIOCAD biotechnology company in Saint Petersburg, Russia December 4, 2020. REUTERS/Anton Vaganov/File Photo

In a morning news conference, Lopez-Gatell said Mexico’s contract provided for 7.4 million doses between February and April, with more due in May.

“This gives us an enormous opportunity to accelerate vaccination in Mexico,” said Lopez-Gatell, whose country began using the Pfizer vaccine in December.

Later, at an evening news conference, Lopez-Gatell said Mexican health regulator COFEPRIS had authorized Sputnik V for emergency use.

Mexico is trying to secure as much vaccine supply as possible for its 126 million people following delays of some products amid a global scramble for vaccines.

Latin American nations, including Argentina and Mexico, showed an early interest in locking down supplies of the Russian vaccine. In December, the makers of Sputnik V requested to carry out clinical trials in Mexico.

Global interest in Sputnik V was bolstered on Tuesday after peer-reviewed results from its late-stage clinical trial were published in The Lancet international medical journal.

Sputnik V was 91.6% effective in preventing people from developing COVID-19, according to those results.

Requiring two shots, Sputnik V has been approved for storage in normal fridges, rather than freezers, according to scientists at the Gamaleya Institute in Moscow that developed it.

This ease of transportation and distribution has appealed to Mexico, which has hard-to-reach rural areas and a struggling national healthcare system.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin last week about buying 24 million doses of the vaccine.

Lopez-Gatell met Russian officials and gained access to technical files about the vaccine during a trip to Argentina in January. Argentina started rolling out Sputnik V to healthworkers in December.

Reporting by Ana Isabel Martinez; Writing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Grant McCool