Mexico betting on vaccination to overcome 3rd Covid-19 wave

By Eduard Ribas i Admetlla

Mexico City, Jul 13 (EFE).- Given the evidence of a third wave of Covid-19 infections, the Mexican government on Tuesday insisted that the progress being made in its vaccination program is limiting both deaths and hospital admissions, and it passed on announcing new social restriction measures.

“Now that there is this incipient but new wave of infections, there are fewer hospitalizations and, most important of all, fewer deaths, because vaccination is moving forward,” President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said during his morning press conference at the National Palace.

In addition, Lopez Obrador – widely known as AMLO – issued a call to all elderly adults who have not been immunized to go to a vaccination center, saying “It’s the best way to protect ourselves. It’s been proven.”

Since the coronavirus pandemic hit, Mexico has detected 2.6 million confirmed Covid-19 cases and suffered more than 235,000 deaths.

After resisting speaking of a “third wave,” the government now openly admits that there is a new wave of infections that “began four weeks ago.”

The outbreak started in the tourist states of Quintana Roo, Yucatan and Baja California Sur and has spread almost everywhere in the country, with a 29 percent weekly increase in infections being registered recently.

However, the government’s main strategist for dealing with the coronavirus, Hugo Lopez-Gatell, emphasized at the press conference that thanks to the vaccines there is “a smaller … increase in (the numbers of) hospitalized persons and an even more (favorable result) in terms of deaths” compared with the peaks in July 2020 and in January 2021.

The average Mexican hospital occupancy rate stands at 25 percent and at 19 percent for intensive care units.

“This is the positive result of having a vaccinated population in accord with the scientifically designed plan similar to that of many countries that began vaccinating elderly adults,” the epidemiologist said.

With 126 million people, Mexico has administered 50.8 million doses of anti-Covid vaccines from various laboratories and 20.8 million people have been fully immunized. The government says that 40 percent of the population has received at least one dose of one of the vaccines.

Although the national plan already includes adults over age 30, those over 60 were the first to receive the vaccines and then this threshold was dropped to 50, the plan being to immunize the most vulnerable population cohorts first.

“Vaccination is moving forward more slowly than planned due to a lack of vaccine supply, but it is to be expected that the cases of serious illness will be fewer,” Dr. Alejandro Macias, who was in charge of handling the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic, told EFE.

Since June 2020, the Mexican government has left implementing social distancing measures to the country’s 32 states and during the third wave it has not recommended any additional restrictions.

The country, which never mandated a strict home lockdown, is one of the few in the region that has not shut its borders or restricted international flights during the pandemic.

AMLO on Tuesday limited himself to issuing a call to young people who still are not vaccinated to “take care of yourselves,” although he insisted that the government’s “main recommendation” is for people to get the vaccine.

Macias warned that despite the effect of the vaccines, there could still be an increase in deaths among the under-50 public and some hospitals could find themselves overwhelmed with new Covid admissions and “collapse.”

“I think that along with the vaccine there have to be social distancing measures on the local level,” he said.

In addition, he asked that the number of detection tests be increased, a recurring criticism of the Mexican government, and for the newly arising variants to be monitored more closely, adding that the highly contagious Delta variant in on the way to becoming the “predominant” form of Covid in Mexico.

The government on Tuesday set as its goal getting the backward and poverty-stricken state of Chiapas, where just 19 percent of the members of the public have received their first dose of the vaccine, up to the level of the rest of the country.

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