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Mexico, with over 500,000 coronavirus cases, to help with vaccine

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico, having hit over half a million official coronavirus cases and 55,000 deaths as the pandemic rages across Latin America, will help produce a vaccine that could be distributed in the region next year, authorities said on Thursday.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has said the pandemic is losing force in Mexico, though the death toll of 55,293 stands as the world's third highest, behind the United States and Brazil.

Mexico's health ministry on Thursday reported 7,371 new confirmed cases of coronavirus, bringing the total in the country to 505,751.

The government has said the real number of infected people is likely significantly higher than the confirmed cases.

In partnership with the Mexican and Argentine governments, pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca Plc said it plans to initially produce 150 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine in early 2021 and eventually make at least 400 million for distribution throughout the region.

Lopez Obrador hailed the agreement as "good news" for Mexico and said he expected the country to still be suffering from the pandemic by the time the vaccine goes into production.

Supporting Lopez Obrador's argument that COVID-19 is waning in Mexico, the government's head of epidemiology, Jose Luis Alomia, said on Wednesday that fewer tests were coming back positive.

"It's congruent with the decrease in overall cases we've seen in recent weeks" as some 47% of tests were coming back positive this week, compared to 53% to 54% three to four weeks ago, Alomia said.


(Reporting by Ana Isabel Martinez; Writing by Stefanie Eschenbacher; Editing by Anthony Esposito and Tom Brown)