The agreements signed between the government of Mexico and three of the pharmaceutical companies that will provide the country with vaccines against COVID-19 (Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca-Oxford and CanSino) are classified as confidential information and no data about them can be made public. themselves, including what is related to the negotiations prior to signing the agreements.
This was recently determined by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (SRE), which alleges that failure to comply with the clause that requires discretion “may cause harm in obtaining the vaccine to serve the population of the Mexican Republic.”
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Political Animal He wanted to know the content of the agreements announced last October by Chancellor Marcelo Ebrard. However, all documents were declared “confidential”.
This is a model that worked in the pharmaceutical industry before the pandemic made the vaccine the most precious commodity for humanity. Around the world, including Mexico, confidentiality clauses are being signed that prevent details such as the price paid for the vaccine, if there are compensations required by the pharmaceutical companies in exchange for prioritizing one country or another as who would be responsible if a drug does not work.
For this reason, Amnesty International and Doctors Without Borders (MSF) have called for transparency as a mechanism for fair access to the vaccine and avoid, for example, that the richest countries pay less for each dose and on top of that they can monopolize the market.
“The agreement entered into between the Mexican Government and the pharmaceutical company establishes that the parties are obliged to keep all the information generated in this regard at their discretion,” says the response to the petition regarding the agreement with Pfizer, whose content was classified on November 12, as was the agreement with AstraZeneca.
“The failure of the Mexican Government to comply with a confidentiality agreement may cause damage in obtaining the vaccine to serve the population of the Mexican Republic,” explains the SRE.
The confidentiality requirement reaches the point that, in the classification of the agreement with CanSino, which took place on September 21, it is specified that the agreements indicate that “No type of written, verbal, graphic or visual information may be disclosed, generated directly or indirectly by any means between the partiesTherefore, all non-public information related to the project and the pharmaceutical company will be “confidential,” even that generated before the agreement was signed. ”
Political Animal He requested interviews with the three companies to find out their point of view, but had received no response at press time.
Organizations ask for transparency
The opacity in the handling of the agreements raises criticism from Human Rights organizations. His main fear: that the pharmaceutical companies use their advantageous position in an emergency context and there are populations that are left out of the distribution.
“The agreements must be made transparent, since companies have differential dealings with countries,” explained Tania Reneaum, executive director of Amnesty International Mexico, in an interview with Political Animal.
The organization demands that the agreements be made public so that “the price per dose, the cost of developing the vaccines and the technology used in production is public knowledge.”
“Without decisive action by governments demanding more transparency from companies, equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines is in jeopardy. Public opinion has the right to know what is in these agreements: there is no place for secrets during a pandemic, there is too much at stake, “said Miriam Alía, a reference in Vaccination at Doctors Without Borders (MSF), in a statement released in November .
At that time, the contract signed by AstraZeneca with the Brazilian public research body Fundação Oswaldo Cruz (Fiocruz) was made public, which agreed to the production of 100 million doses of the vaccine. This document includes a clause by which the pharmaceutical company grants itself the right to say that the pandemic has ended in July 2021 and increase the prices at which it delivers the drug to governments.
MSF denounced that, despite the strong public investment that pharmaceutical companies had for their research, andThey continue to maintain these confidentiality clauses, which may include worrisome terms for “affordable and equitable” access to vaccines. His proposal: support the India and South Africa initiative so that the patents of vaccines and medicines do not apply until the population is immunized.
At this point it should be noted that most of the funding to develop the vaccines came from governments and donations.
According to data from the scientific data analysis company Airfinity cited by the BBC, governments contributed 8,600 million dollars (slightly less than 172,000 million pesos), non-profit organizations 1.900 million dollars (slightly less than 48,000 million pesos) and companies invested 3,400 million dollars (about 68 billion pesos). However, later it is the companies that maintain control of the vaccine and set guidelines such as the secrecy of agreements with governments.
A slip made public prices in Europe
In other parts of the world, the obligation not to disclose agreements has generated controversy.
The European Commission, for example, has also refused to give details about the confidentiality clauses signed with the pharmaceutical companies.
“Non-disclosure clauses are a standard feature of agreements that vaccine developers make with other countries. It is necessary to protect sensitive negotiations and company information such as financial data or development and production plans ”, said in November Stella Kyriakides, Health Commissioner.
The European countries negotiated the purchase of vaccines as one, so the purchases were centralized from common institutions.
The secrecy, however, was broken in mid-December by the indiscretion of the Belgian Budget Minister, Eva De Bleeker, who posted the prices of each of the vaccines on her Twitter account.
For Europe, each dose of AstraZeneca vaccine has a cost of 1.78 euros (43.54 pesos), while the one from Pfizer costs 12 euros (293.80 pesos).
In Mexico, the price of each of the doses has not been made public or how much it costs the pharmaceutical companies to produce them. However, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has spoken of a budget of 32 billion pesos to be able to face the emergency and purchase vaccines for the more than 127 million Mexicans.
Vaccination in Mexico
The Mexican government has made a great diplomatic effort since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic to guarantee access to vaccines. For the time being, Ebrard announced pre-purchase agreements with Pfizer (EU-Germany), AstraZeneca (Great Britain) and CanSino (China). However, it also signed agreements with other pharmaceutical companies, such as the Chinese Walvax Biotechnology.
Pfizer must deliver 34 million doses and the first shipments have already been distributed since December 24, when the first vaccine was applied after the Federal Commission for the Protection of Sanitary Risks (Cofepris) gave its approval.
Of the second, it is expected that 77 million doses will arrive between March and August, once the approval of the health authorities is achieved on Monday 4. The last pharmaceutical company that remains to receive the endorsement of Cofepris is CanSino, which should supply the country with 35 million doses.
Further, Mexico is part of the international COVAX mechanism, an initiative promoted among others by the World Health Organization (WHO) in which more than 100 countries are present, with the absence of the US and Russia and that it is designed so that states with greater capacity can support those who have fewer resources.
In order to obtain inventories that cover the entire Mexican population free of charge, the government had to sign its confidentiality agreements with the pharmaceutical companies. There are two elements that have been able to give Mexico an advantage in obtaining vaccines: on the one hand, the participation of volunteers in vaccine trials that have been developed in the country. For the other, the agreement signed with Argentina, AstraZeneca and the Slim Foundation so that both states are the producers of the drugs for all of Latin America, except Brazil. There are no details about this either, since the document is also confidential.
Since the beginning of the vaccination, on December 24, just over 43 thousand doses have been applied in Mexico. That is, 0.03% of Mexicans (all of them health sector workers) have already received immunity. The government’s goal is for all people over 60 years of age to be vaccinated by March, approximately 12 and a half million Mexicans.
In almost 10 months of the pandemic, more than 128 thousand people have died and almost a million and a half have been infected according to official figures.