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Mexico And Argentina Team Up To Produce Coronavirus Vaccine For Latin America

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Mexico has registered the third-highest number of COVID deaths in the world, more than 56,000. Its president, though, is reassuring his people that they will have access to a coronavirus vaccine once approved. Mexico and Argentina have teamed up with a major drug company to begin producing a vaccine for Latin America as soon as November. NPR's Carrie Kahn reports.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: That November production start date is optimistic. But eager to give Mexicans some good news on the coronavirus front, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has been talking up the new agreement Mexico and Argentina have signed with the AstraZeneca pharmaceutical company.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT ANDRES MANUEL LOPEZ OBRADOR: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: "This gives us certainty, the confidence that we will come out of this nightmare," said Lopez Obrador in a video posted on social media. Mexico's richest man, Carlos Slim, says he'll chip in to help with startup costs. Mexico has long been concerned about richer nations snatching up anti-COVID resources before poor countries. Lopez Obrador says the new vaccine agreement ensures Mexico's place in the vaccine pipeline. Producing it in Latin America will also lower costs, estimated to be about $4 a dose.

Today, Lopez Obrador said what's important is to get an effective vaccine, even if it's the one Russia announced last week that's yet to go through extensive trials.

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LOPEZ OBRADOR: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: "And I'll be the first to be vaccinated," he said.

Carrie Kahn, NPR News, Mexico City.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.