by Maria Matilde Arroyo Carmona

Mexico and Brazil have been beneficiaries of multilateral international efforts, such as COVAX, which has promoted equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines. However the inoculation process in each country needs to be improved in order to reach herd immunity and economic stability. 

Current Situation in Mexico and Brazil

The governments of the two largest economies in Latin America, Mexico and Brazil, currently under  Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador and the Jair Bolsonaro administration respectively,  face logistics, supply, communication, and inequality challenges in the vaccination process. The roll out is slow and inefficient, people need to line up for hours without access to awnings, hydration stations, and others need to travel hours hoping to receive a reliable covid-19 vaccine. 

In Mexico and Brazil, the mission of delivering vaccines is being managed by the armed forces and the Health Ministry, but private hospitals or pharmacies are not being included. 

While both Mexico and Brazil import vaccines through COVAX, the results in terms of the percentage of the population that has been vaccinated and the COVID cases vary greatly. Vaccination rates are as low as 5.83% for Mexico and 6.49% for Brazil. At the same time, the cases of Covid-19 keep increasing; Mexico presented 3,025 new cases on May 2nd and Brazil, 28,935. Furthermore, not all-public hospitals have enough beds, supplies, or refrigeration to keep vaccines safe. Inevitably this crisis has brought not just health problems but economic and trade challenges (Table 1).

 A positive aspect for Brazil is that AstraZeneca has approved the manufacturing of its vaccine at Fiocruz biomedical institute. Brazil is importing raw ingredients from the Chinese firm Wuxi Biologics. Besides, the laboratorie Butantan is importing active ingredients of the vaccine Sinovac for filling and finishing doses of the vaccine. 

On the other hand, Mexico has imported the active ingredients of the Chinese Cansino vaccine  and they are completing the process of filling and finishing doses as well at the plant Drugmex located in Queretaro Mexico. 

Undoubtedly vaccination rates are a relevant factor to reactivate the economy. Higher vaccination will allow businesses to reopen, produce and export more goods and services and increase the local and global consumption.  Nonetheless with the massive production of vaccines, not all countries have equal resources to access the vaccine. 

Multilateralism and Vaccine Imports/Exports

COVAX was created to ensure fair vaccine access among developed and developing nations. This international organization is co-led by CEPI, Gavi and World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Children’s Emergency Funds (UNICEF), and the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) Revolving Fund in the Americas. Mexico received 1,075,200 doses on April 23rd and Brazil,  1,022,400 doses in March and an additional 3, 981,600 on May 1st . Both countries received the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine manufactured in the Republic of Korea. COVAX is committed to helping countries in need with vaccines for up to  20 % of the population.

What We Can Learn From Chile

The governments need to make vaccination a priority. For example, Chile is standing up in Latin America and globally, as one of the fastest countries in the world in providing a fast inoculation. Its government led by Sebastian Piñera managed to get vaccines–Pfizer and Sinovac–in an effort with COVAX. The inoculation process started on December 24, 2020. Its Health ministry, directed by Enrique Paris,  got technical advice about logistics, strategic vaccination, increased human resources, developed cold chain infrastructure, and collaborative work with science, all medical institutions, and foreign affairs.  Now they have vaccinated 39.36 % of the total population. As a result, its international trade is projected to have a positive growth of 8% for 2021, as SUBREI reported. The multilateral effort that Chile is managing should be a model not only for Mexico and Brazil, but for many other countries.

Regardless of the effective importation and management of the vaccine, Chile is still registering a high number of daily cases of Covid-19 patients. On May 2nd 2021 the number of daily cases was 6,122, by May 19  4,778 and by May 23 was 6,505.  Chile, as the rest of the world, is looking forward to having at least 70% of the population vaccinated to reach herd immunity and a solid economic rebound.

Maria Matilde Arroyo Carmona is the spring 2021 research intern with the Global Research Institute of International Trade with the hope of starting her own business. She is completing her certificate in International Trade and Commerce at UCLA Extension.

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