BUENOS AIRES: Argentina’s government said on Wednesday (Apr 28) that it had met with representatives of drugmaker AstraZeneca to ask about “difficulties” in the production of its COVID-19 vaccine and supply of it to the country.

The South American country’s health minister Carla Vizzotti formally requested a report on the progress in the production and quality control of the vaccine which is being made partially in Argentina and completed in Mexico and the United States.

“We had a new meeting with the president of AstraZeneca Argentina and representatives of the firm to ask them to report as soon as possible about the possible difficulties that the vaccine production process is going through,” Vizzotti said.

Vizzotti also demanded an estimated delivery scheduled for the vaccines, saying this information was “vital for the organisation of the vaccination campaign”.

Argentina struck a deal in November last year with AstraZeneca to receive around 22 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine being developed with the University of Oxford, with the aim to start deliveries in the first half of this year.

The vaccines were meant to be produced regionally by Argentine firm mAbxience and Mexican laboratory Liomont. The latter has faced production delays, which has raised tensions as governments struggle to rev up inoculation programs.

The delays in US and European vaccines arriving in the region more widely has pushed countries like Mexico and Argentina toward deals with Russia and China.

Latin America’s vaccine shortage is also raising a threat to the region’s fragile economic recovery as lockdowns tighten amid a dangerous surge of infections and rising death tolls.

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The region of some 660 million people has recorded almost 30 per cent of the world’s 3.2 million COVID-19 deaths to date, despite being home to just 8 per cent of the world’s population.

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