Mexico, Chile lead Latin America’s first vaccine rollouts

MEXICO CITY (AFP) – Frontline medical workers in Mexico and Chile were among the first to be vaccinated against the coronavirus on Thursday as several countries in hard-hit Latin America launched mass immunisation programmes.

“It’s the best gift I could receive in 2020,” 59-year-old Mexican nurse Maria Irene Ramirez said as she received the injection at a hospital in the capital on December 24.

“It makes me safer and gives me more courage to continue in the war against an invisible enemy. We’re afraid but we must continue.”

Mexico’s televised rollout came a day after the first 3,000 doses produced by United States (US) pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech arrived by courier plane from Belgium.

Mexico has registered more than 120,000 COVID-19 deaths – the world’s fourth highest toll after the US, Brazil and India.

Mexico’s nurse Irene Ramirez receives the first of two Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine jabs. PHOTO: AFP

Brazil, which has reported nearly 190,000 deaths, is still negotiating the purchase of 350 million doses of coronavirus vaccines for 2021.

Immunisation has been a highly politicised issue and far-right President Jair Bolsonaro has repeatedly said he will not take a vaccine.

In Chile, 46-year-old nursing assistant Zulema Riquelme was the first person shown receiving the jab, hours after the first 10,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine arrived by plane.

“I’m very excited and nervous – many emotions,” she said after being inoculated in the presence of President Sebastian Pinera in the capital.

“You’re everyone’s hope,” Pinera told her. Mexico was the first country in Latin America to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, followed closely by Chile as well as Costa Rica, which was also due to begin an immunisation programme on Thursday.