Mayas in southern Mexico reject Covid-19 vaccine

By Mitzi Mayauel Fuentes Gomez

San Juan Cancuc, Mexico, Feb 9 (efe-epa).- The mainly Tzeltal Maya population of this municipality in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas have declined the Covid-19 vaccine out of fear of possible side effects.

“Here the people don’t want to be vaccinated because it can carry negative effects. Not even the old people want it,” resident Sebastian Santis told Efe here Tuesday.

Located in the central highlands of Chiapas, San Juan Cancuc comprises 45 villages that are home to around 40,000 people.

Only three cases of Covid-19 have been detected in the municipality since the pandemic reached Mexico in March 2020, according to official figures.

But the state of Chiapas has had upwards of 8,000 cases and nearly 700 deaths, while coronavirus has claimed more than 166,000 lives across Mexico, where the number of confirmed infections is approaching 2 million.

San Juan Cancuc’s mayor, Jose Lopez Lopez, said that he and other municipal officials met on Jan. 28 with representatives of the 45 villages to brief them on the plan to inoculate elderly residents.

After the presentation, the delegates voted to opt out of the program.

Consistent with provisions of Mexican law that allow some indigenous communities to govern themselves in accord with ancestral traditions, San Juan Cancuc agreed not to establish a vaccine site.

Mexico, a nation of 126 million people, has contracts to acquire a total of 140.8 million doses of vaccines from Pfizer, AstraZeneca, China’s CanSino and the producers of Russia’s Sputnik V.

Because all of the vaccines approved so far by regulators require two doses to achieve maximum effectiveness, that supply would be enough for 70.2 million people.

Yet though Mexico was the first country in Latin America to begin vaccination, on Dec. 24, only 75,800 medical workers have gotten both doses of the Pfizer drug as a result of manufacturing delays.

Mistrust of the vaccine is latent in San Juan Cancuc.

“I have heard that if you get the vaccine, you die afterward,” Elias Gomez said, acknowledging that people in his village failed to take precautions early in the pandemic.

Now, however, residents are adhering to social distance guidelines and increasing their consumption of medicinal plants, he said.

Another resident, Antonio Garcia, said that while he has no fear of the vaccine, many of his neighbors have a different view.

Asked whether he would get the shot, he replied: “When the time comes, yes, but only when it doesn’t have bad consequence. Let each person make his or her own decision.”

Martin Gomez expressed regret about the decision to reject the vaccine.

“For me it’s good, but the community of Chilolja doesn’t want it and I don’t know why,” he said. EFE mmf/dr

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