Mexico Ignoring 'Propaganda' Against Russia's COVID Vaccine, Will Administer Shots

Just two days after Brazil decided not to approve Russia's Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine, Mexico has announced it will begin bottling and packaging doses.

"Mexico did not fall into the propaganda game against Sputnik V," Mexico Foreign Affairs Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said during a visit to Russia. "The evidence that we have from what the Health Department told me before this trip is that the million doses administered in Mexico have very good results."

Ebrard said state-owned company Birmex will work with the Russian Direct Investment Fund to prepare the bottling operations in Mexico.

The Brazilian Health Regulatory Agency drew criticism from the Russian government after it rejected several states' requests to import almost 30 million doses of the Sputnik V vaccine. The agency decided unanimously that there was not sufficient consistent and trustworthy data to give the vaccine approval.

Also known as Anvisa, the agency said there were problems with how every clinical study of the vaccine was conducted. The agency's statement said that analysis indicated the adenovirus on which the vaccine is based could replicate, which may cause sickness or death in those with low immunity or respiratory problems.

A Russian fund overseeing global marketing for the vaccine denied the claim.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

Sputnik V Vaccine Vials
Vials of the Russian Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine at the Higher University of San Andres in La Paz, Bolivia, on April 27. Jorge Bernal/AFP/Getty Images

The timing of Wednesday's announcement appeared to put Mexico in the middle of a growing information war over the Sputnik vaccine.

A European Union agency said in a report Wednesday that Russia has launched a major campaign using ministries, companies and pro-Kremlin media to promote the Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine and spread fake news that the West and the European Union are trying to undermine the shot.

The report, which was compiled by the strategic communications branch of the EU's external action service—essentially the 27-nation bloc's foreign ministry—said that part of the campaign is to sow distrust in the European Medicines Agency, which also has not approved the Sputnik shot.

Mexico has already been bottling the Chinese-developed CanSino vaccine, as well Argentine-made AstraZeneca vaccine, as part of Mexico's efforts to obtain more shots.

But Mexican labs have not exactly been stars at the process, known as "fill and finish."

On Wednesday, Argentina's health minister asked AstraZeneca Argentina for information on when the first doses of bulk vaccine shipped to Mexico for fill and finish would arrive.

Last week, Hugo Sigman, an executive of the Argentine manufacturer Grupo Insud, said delays in getting the doses were because the bottling plant in Mexico had difficulties in obtaining needed raw material due to "high global demand." Glass vials and other supplies have been in short supply.

Ebrard said there had been delays "for various reasons" in bottling the AstraZeneca doses in Mexico, but said "they are being resolved" and that the Mexican plant should start delivering the vaccine in May.

In addition to Sputnik V, AstraZeneca and CanSino, Mexico has been using the Pfizer and Sinovac vaccines.

The country has received 16.6 million doses and given some 12 million shots, equivalent to a single dose for about 9.4% of the population. Mexico has vaccinated many of its senior citizens and plans to begin vaccinating people between the ages of 50 and 59 in May.

There have been over 215,500 test-confirmed deaths related to COVID-19, but Mexico does so little testing that many people die without having been tested.

A preliminary government review of death certificates suggested excess deaths attributable to COVID-19 reached 316,344 by the start of March. There have been 29,395 test-confirmed deaths since then, for a total of 345,739.