Mexico near approving Russian vaccine, with little data

Pedro Nuez wears a mask embroidered with the image of a "catrina" during the COVID-19 pandemic as he waits for clients at his kiosk where he sells sweets and soft drinks on Paseo de la Reforma in Mexico City, Monday, Jan. 25, 2021. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)
Pedro Nuez wears a mask embroidered with the image of a "catrina" during the COVID-19 pandemic as he waits for clients at his kiosk where he sells sweets and soft drinks on Paseo de la Reforma in Mexico City, Monday, Jan. 25, 2021. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

MEXICO CITY – Mexico said Tuesday it is close to granting approval for Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, with lots of spy drama but little public data available.

The approval process described by Hugo López-Gatell, Mexico’s assistant health secretary, sounded like a Cold War spy thriller, and may not foment confidence in the shot.

López-Gatell said a Mexican technical committee on new medications has recommended approving the vaccine, adding only “some details” were lacking for COFEPRIS, the government medical safety commission, to give the final go-ahead.

“The technical part, the main part of COFEPRIS, particularly the committee on new medications, has given a favorable recommendation to authorize, that is to say, the crucial part has been solved,” López-Gatell said.

But he also said that despite weeks of conversations with Russian officials, he could not get his hands on the results of Phase 3 trials, which are normally published in international medical journals and indicate how effective the vaccine is.

Russian officials have given conflicting accounts, upping the supposed effectiveness of the Sputnik vaccine to higher levels every time a U.S. vaccine reports its results.

Desperate, but with no published data, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador ordered López-Gatell to fly to Argentina, which has already approved and is using Sputnik V, to see what information he could get.

The Argentines had to call the Russians to get permission to share the closely-guarded files with the Mexicans.