The vaccines for covid-19 that are being developed in Latin America (in addition to that of AstraZeneca-Oxford)

Scientists from Latin America are working against the clock to develop a vaccine for SARS-CoV-2 that will give health security to their countries

In the global search for a vaccine against covid-19, Latin America, the region of the world hardest hit by the coronavirus, is making its own efforts.

In addition to collaborating in global research, such as the association of Mexico and Argentina with the AstraZeneca vaccine project and the University of Oxford, in four countries in the region dozens of scientists are working to secure their own vaccine.

And it is that no matter how advanced other world investigations are, a Golden Rule in the development of this type of research is that As long as there is no fully proven and distributed vaccine, you cannot lower your hands.

“We do not yet know what availability there will actually be of the vaccines developed by other countries. The possibility of having a national vaccine gives a lot of security when having a biological one to protect the population, “says Edda Sciutto, one of the scientists at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), who carries out her own development.

From Argentina, Jorge Geffner, from the National Council for Scientific and Technical Research (CONICET), which is developing a vaccine with the San Martín National University (UNSM), remarks: “If it is not done, we will inevitably maintain a strict dependence on developed countries. For a nation’s perspective, that’s very poor. “

And getting a fully tested vaccine is not easy or fast, despite the fact that time records are being broken in the current pandemic.

The situation is dire: more than 20 million infections and 750,000 deaths in the world have accelerated biomedical research.

Hence, the production of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine has been announced in Latin America yet not knowing if it will really work.

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And in the region there will also be tests on tens of thousands of people of vaccines that are being developed in other parts of the world.

The work of Latin America

The World Health Organization (WHO) classified the spread of covid-19 as a pandemic on March 11. Five months later, the agency records 29 vaccine projects that are already in the clinical study stage.

Until this August 13, only six were in phase 3, the most advanced, which involves experimentation in large groups of people: AstraZeneca-Oxford, Sinovac, Sinopharm-Wuhan Institute of Biological Products, Sinopharm-Beijing Institute of Products, Moderna-NIAID and BioNTech-Fosun Pharma-Pfizer.

The University of Oxford, in the United Kingdom, carries out the most advanced tests of its vaccine with AstraZeneca.

At the same time there are 138 other studies in the preclinical stage, the initial one, in which the vaccines are still under investigation and their tests are carried out on animals or laboratory recipients.

Of the latter three projects listed by WHO They are in Latin America.

Brazil has two, that of the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation-Butantan Institute and that of the University of Sao Paulo, in addition to Argentina with the CONICET-UNSM investigation.

However, in Mexico with the UNAM and Peru With the project of the Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia they are also working on their own investigations against the coronavirus.

“The bottleneck is not so much the scientific development of the vaccine, but the scaling up to produce it. The challenge is to achieve alliances with pharmaceutical companies to achieve sufficient scaling“, Explains Juan Pedro Laclette, who participates in the UNAM project in Mexico.

They will go their own way

On this point, Laclette and Geffner explain that for the development of this vaccine they already have scientific knowledge of those created for two other epidemic coronaviruses: SARS and MERS.

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“Until now, all attempts to develop a vaccine are based on the considerable knowledge that we already have about these types of infections. And clearly the vaccine is going to be achieved, ”says Laclette.

Either from development from protein,as it is done in Mexico and Argentina, vector as in Brazil, or a genetically modified salmonella in Peru, experiments seek to find the antigen that shows the greatest effectiveness in preclinical trials.

A scientist at the Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia

The Peruvian research is carried out at the Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia.

They will then move on to clinical phases 1, 2 and 3 where they will be tested on volunteers, from a few to tens of thousands.

For a vaccine to be considered safe, it must to guarantee around the 90% protection.

“The point that stands out is that in general all vaccinations have taken between five and ten years to develop. And the vaccines that are being developed today are already entering phase 3 and started in March, ”says Geffner.

How vaccines work


Even in the region, they are working on innovations, as in the case of Peru, where Mirko Zimic, who leads the national research, said that they work so that the doses are for oral administration.

“You would no longer need a specialized army of vaccinators who can give injections,” he explained in a statement.

From other countries to Latin America

In addition to developing their own vaccines, Latin American governments are establishing agreements with various projects in other countries.

This is the case of Mexico and Argentina with AstraZeneca-Oxford, with which – to achieve final approval in a few months – seek produce and distribute the vaccine for all Latin American countries (except Brazil, which has its own agreement).

Vaccines in ampoules

In the world there were more than 160 vaccine studies for covid. 19 as of August, according to the WHO.

Argentina, explained the president Alberto Fernandez, will be in charge of the production in the mAbxience laboratory, while in Mexico the packaging and distribution will be done.

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But also Argentina, Brazil and Mexico have reached agreements so that vaccines are tested on tens of thousands of peopleto complete phases 3 of experimentation, which does not suppose a sanitary risk since the previous phases proved its benefit in animals and in some volunteers.

“Starting to vaccinate with something that does not harm you can have the risk that people change their behavior and expose themselves more to the virus because they feel safe or protected with something that is not known if it works. That’s why phase 3 is important ”, explains Edda Sciutto.

“Although there are many vaccines underway and many very advanced, we do not yet know the effectiveness. And that is a great challenge, well requires vacciner to tens of thousands of people and takes time“, Explain.

Hence, for the Western scientific community it is striking that Russia has approved its vaccine without offering the corresponding tests of the different phases. Even the Russian authorities have assured that they will produce these vaccines in Cuba and Brazil.

That is why it is important that each country has its research, says Laclette.

“It is happening ruthless competition, because there are very important business objectives. The production of hundreds of thousands of vaccines has considerable economic gains in mind ”, he warns.

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