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Vaccinations Begin in Latin America, Where Covid Hit Hardest

Justin Villamil and Cyntia Barrera Diaz
·3 min read

(Bloomberg) -- Mexico, Chile and Costa Rica started administering Latin America’s first Covid-19 vaccines Thursday as the region hardest hit by the disease seeks relief from the pandemic.

The first injection was broadcast live from a hospital in Mexico and shown during President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s daily press briefing. It was administered to the head of nursing at an ICU unit in Mexico City’s General Hospital. In Chile, the government selected five health workers for vaccination, which was also televised. Costa Rica started its vaccination campaign on Thursday as well. All three are applying Pfizer Inc shots.

The vaccine arrivals offer a glimmer of hope to a region particularly devastated by the virus. Brazil has the second-highest death count in the world from the virus, with Mexico following close behind in fourth place. Mexico’s fatality rate is also one of the highest in the world. Mexico City’s hospital occupancy has reached 85%, and one study says health services may be overwhelmed soon.

“Mexico is the first country in Latin America to have this vaccine,” Mexico’s president said in the press briefing. “Pfizer is fulfilling its commitment.”

Virus Tracker: Global Cases 78.8 Million; Deaths 1.73 Million

Mexico’s government plans to vaccinate close to 3,000 people Thursday in what authorities are calling a trial run. Pfizer is expected to ship 50,000 more doses to Mexico next week.

In Chile, a plane arrived Thursday morning with the country’s first 10,000 doses. During a press conference, President Sebastian Pinera said that the country aims to vaccinate the majority of health personnel and at-risk citizens -- about 5 million people -- in the first quarter of 2021.

Brazil, the Latin American country with the highest number of cases of Covid-19, has fallen behind in the region’s race to inoculate the population. The push to obtain injections has been hamstrung by political infighting and timeline setbacks of the locally-produced Coronavac vaccine.

The earliest date publicized so far for vaccinations in Latin America’s largest economy is January 25, for the state of Sao Paulo only. The country’s Supreme Court has also determined that Brazilians can be mandated to take the vaccine.

Read more: Brazil’s Supreme Court Rules Against Covid Anti-Vaxxers

While Latin American nations have lagged behind developed countries in their vaccine roll-out programs -- the U.S. has already administered over a million doses -- Mexico and Chile have secured more doses of the virus than anyone else in the region.

300,000 doses of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine arrived in Argentina on Thursday as well. President Alberto Fernandez thanked Russian President Vladimir Putin in a social media post on Twitter Thursday afternoon for the “commitment” he had shown Argentina and said the shipment will kickstart the biggest vaccination campaign in the nation’s history.

(Updates with details of Argentina’s vaccination plans in final paragraph.)

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