MEXICO CITY, April 13 (Reuters) - Mexico aims to have developed a vaccine against COVID-19 that could be granted approval for emergency use this year, an senior official said on Tuesday (Apr 13), an outcome that could wean it off unreliable foreign supplies for its slow vaccination program.

The head of the National Council of Science and Technology (Conacyt), Maria Elena Alvarez-Buylla, told a news conference that the vaccine under development could be granted approval in November or December of this year.

Clinical trials with volunteers could begin this month, according to Avimex, the veterinary pharmaceutical company that is leading the vaccine's development in Mexico.

If the trails are successful, the "Patria" vaccine could help Mexico and other developing nations that have struggled to secure supplies of foreign-made shots that rich countries have snapped up.

Mexico has so far acquired 16.9 million vaccine doses for its population of 126 million, all from foreign companies including Pfizer-BioNTech, Sinovac, AstraZeneca, CanSino and Sputnik V, according to government data.

The costs to acquire Avimex's vaccine would be 800 per cent lower than imported foreign vaccines, the government said.

Mexico has reported 2,286,133 infections and 210,294 deaths from COVID-19, the seventh-highest death toll per head of population in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The government says the real case numbers are likely to be significantly higher, and separate health ministry data suggests the actual death toll may be at least 60 per cent above the confirmed figure.