By Eduard Ribas i Admetlla
Mexico City, Dec 24 (efe-epa).- The Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine was welcomed Thursday like a Christmas gift by the 3,000 medical professionals selected to be part of the first phase of vaccination in Mexico, which trails only the United States, Brazil and India in Covid-19 deaths.
Maria Irene Ramirez, the director of nursing in the intensive care unit at Mexico City’s Ruben Leñero Hospital, was the first person in Latin America to receive the Pfizer drug.
“I’m a little nervous, but very happy. The truth is, it’s the best gift I could receive in 2020. It gives me security to continue on the front line of this war against an invisible enemy,” she said before getting the jab on live television shortly before 8:00 am at the General Hospital in the capital.
Afterward, the 59-year-old nurse admitted cheerfully that the injection hurt “a little.”
The vaccine was then administered to two physicians, Maria del Rosario Lora and Daniel Diaz, at military installations in the cities of Queretaro and Toluca, respectively.
Mexico has upward of 1.3 million confirmed cases of Covid-19 and the 120,000 coronavirus fatalities include more than 1,300 doctors.
The broadcast feeds from the three inaugural vaccinations appeared on the screen during President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s morning press conference with commentary from Mexico’s deputy health secretary, epidemiologist Hugo Lopez-Gatell.
“We are very happy,” Lucia Ledezma told Efe while waiting in line for her injection at the General Hospital. “It’s a deluge of emotions. We’re entering the 10th month since this pandemic began in Mexico and all of us know the great effort that has been made.”
While health-care workers are the first to get the shot, Lopez Obrador said that in the coming months, vaccination “will be universal and free.”
Mexico has the resources to acquire enough vaccine for all of its 130 million people, the president said, adding that the pace of inoculation will “depend solely on the availability of vaccines.”
By the end of January, Pfizer will have shipped 1.4 million doses to Mexico, sufficient to complete the vaccination of medical personnel.
The government expects to be able to inoculate the entire population over the 13 months ending in March 2022. Priority will be given to the elderly and people suffering from chronic illnesses that make them especially vulnerable to Covid-19.
Besides buying 34.4 million doses of the Pfizer drug, Mexican officials have arranged to get 77.4 million doses of the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca in partnership with Oxford University and 35 million doses of the vaccine candidate from China’s CanSino once those medications obtain the needed regulatory approvals.
“We are the first country in Latin America to receive it (the vaccine). Vaccination begins today in Mexico, in the European Union it begins Sunday. It was done, we achieved it on time,” said Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard, tasked by Lopez Obrador with obtaining the vaccine as quickly as possible.
Amid the euphoria about the start of vaccination, Lopez-Gatell sounded a note of caution.
“The pandemic doesn’t end today. We must not let down our guard,” he said. EFE er/dr