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Mexico may delay second vaccine doses and allow private orders to tame raging pandemic

Credit: REUTERS/JOSE LUIS GONZALEZ

Mexico's government said on Friday the administration of second doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines could be delayed and private companies will be allowed to purchase the drugs directly as the country struggles to keep a rampant pandemic in check.

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MEXICO CITY, Jan 22 (Reuters) - Mexico's government said on Friday the administration of second doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines could be delayed and private companies will be allowed to purchase the drugs directly as the country struggles to keep a rampant pandemic in check.

This week alone, Mexico set two daily coronavirus death records as hospitals are overwhelmed by a surge of cases and patients are faced with paying a fourfold increase in prices for oxygen tanks, which are in short supply.

Deputy health minister Hugo Lopez-Gatell said Mexico was considering delaying the administration of the second dose of the two-dose Pfizer Inc./BioNTech PFE.NBNTX.O vaccine to patients in order to help get the first dose to those in need more quickly.

"We're seeing if we need to expand the time period to 35 days," said Lopez-Gatell, who added that there would be "no need" to delay the administration of the second doses if enough new vaccine doses arrive in the coming weeks.

The Pfizer vaccine is currently the only one being administered in Mexico, which has reported the fourth-highest death toll from the pandemic worldwide.

Mexico had been expecting weekly deliveries of some 400,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, but as a result of the U.S. drugmaker's agreements with the World Health Organization (WHO), Mexico is now expecting to only receive half of that total.

The WHO said on Monday it was in advanced talks with Pfizer about including its vaccine in the agency's portfolio of shots to be shared with poorer countries.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador added that his administration will issue authorization for any company or local government that wants to acquire vaccines to administer them in Mexico.

(Reporting by Anthony Esposito; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel, William Maclean)

((anthony.esposito@tr.com; +5255 5282 7140;))

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