Slow vaccine campaign in Mexico vs. driven vaccine development in Malaysia

July 6, 2021

Following the ambitious re-opening of schools and other public areas , COVID -19 cases have sky-rocketed in some parts of Mexico City – health ministry data showed a 64% spike in infections in just three weeks, such that daily cases during the month of June exceeded the numbers recorded at the height of the pandemic in January.

In the state of Baja California Sur, home to tourist destinations like Los Cabos, infections jumped 366% in June to 1,721 cases, up from 369 cases a month earlier, seen mostly in younger people. Despite the spike in cases, deaths and hospitalisations have remained fairly low, and with majority elderly almost fully vaccinated, health officials are cautiously optimistic the worst has passed.

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However, Laurie Ximénez-Fyvie, a professor and molecular genetics investigator at National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), warned the accelerated pace of infections as is could lead to a “catastrophic” situation.

Mexico is one of the few countries in the world that does not require a negative COVID-19 test to enter, making it a popular option for international tourists. There are almost no government restrictions on mobility or capacity as local governments pin hopes of an economic boost on a rebound in tourism.

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) had earlier said the reactivation of tourism in Mexico City and the onset of hurricane season could aggravate the coronavirus pandemic due to increased movement and the lack of social distancing and ventilation measures.

Not long after, the highly contagious Delta variant – first confirmed in India in October – was identified in at least a third of Mexico’s states, mostly concentrated in Baja California Sur and Mexico City, according to the Mexican Consortium for Genomic Surveillance.

If the Delta variant spreads widely in Mexico it could complicate the pandemic further, said Ximénez-Fyvie, adding that Mexico is already behind the curve in vaccinations.

Mexico plans to cover 35% of its population with Chinese vaccines including Sinovac – so far, only about 24% of Mexico’s 126 million people have had their first shot.

In other news, Malaysia is currently endeavouring to develop a COVID-19 vaccine that it hopes will be effective against the new variants of the coronavirus, including the Delta strain. The research initiative was undertaken by the national Institute for Medical Research (IMR), together with other collaborators from Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) and the Veterinary Research Institute (VRI) under the Veterinary Services Department (DVS).

Two types of vaccines are in development: the first involves mRNA (messenger RNA) vaccine similar to Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, which teach our cells how to make a protein that triggers an immune response inside our bodies; and the second type involves the inactivated vaccine approach, similar to the Sinovac vaccine, which stimulates our immune response using viruses that have been killed using high temperatures, chemicals or radiation.

While the Malaysian government has secured enough vaccines from overseas to cover over 100% of our population, this research project means a lot to Malaysia because it goes beyond the war against Covid-19.

“Malaysia needs to have the capabilities to produce vaccines when needed and be self-sufficient,” said IMR Director Dr. Tahir Aris. Besides pandemic preparedness, vaccine technologies can be used for other viruses or bacteria and even immunotherapy, he added.

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