By KELIN DILLON
Despite growing opposition and advice to the contrary from both national and international medical specialists, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) has decided to continue on as planned with his controversial National Vaccine Strategy, which now targets rural communities as the first priority for vaccination over Mexico’s urban epicenters of the coronavirus outbreak, like Mexico City.
The National Vaccine Strategy will see adults over the age of 60 in rural communities begin receiving vaccinations using the country’s remaining doses of the Pfizer vaccine beginning at 8 a.m. on Monday, Feb. 15, in Oaxaca, where eight vaccination points will be established.
“The decision was made to start in the most remote, poorer municipalities of the country, and we are starting in 300 municipalities of the country with these characteristics,” said AMLO, in a press conference from Oaxaca on Sunday, Feb. 14, doubling down on his plan to prioritize rural communities, contrary to the opinion of medical experts.
“Mexico won’t be able to start mass vaccination until we have tens of millions of doses,” said Alejandro Macías Hernández, an infectious disease specialist at Mexico’s National Autonomous University (UNAM). “But now that we have some, I consider that their most reasonable use is in places where there is a higher population concentration and a higher rate of infections.”
According to data from the Mexican daily Reforma, the differences in cases between urban and rural communities in the same state in Mexico were staggering. Within the State of Mexico (Edoméx), the city of Ecatepec had 27,614 covid cases, while the rural neighboring Otzoloapan only had 10 cases. The same pattern continued in the northern Mexican state of Nuevo León, where urban Monterrey had 33,603 coronavirus cases, while its rural Los Aldamas had 6 total cases, begging the question as to why the less-affected rural communities have gained AMLO’s priority in vaccination over suffering metropolitan areas.
The rollout of Mexico’s vaccine distribution has already been slow to start, with only 311 doses given out on Saturday, Feb. 13, a startling low number considering the 12,000 vaccination brigades (of 12 people each) that were created by AMLO to oversee the vaccine’s distribution. Based on those figures, only 2.59 percent of the brigades managed to inoculate just one person during the entirety of last Saturday, raising questions about their efficiency.
And, according to Mexico’s Undersecretary of Health Hugo López-Gatell, only 85,887 of health workers, or 14 percent, have received the full two doses of the vaccine to complete their vaccination against the coronavirus, despite health workers supposedly earmarked to be the naiton’s first priority for inoculation, above the elderly.
López Obrador, whose government has had a marked difficulty obtaining sufficient vaccine doses for Mexico, announced from Oaxaca on Sunday, Feb. 14, that Mexico would eventually have its own vaccine he named Patria, which translates to “homeland” in English.
In the meantime, 870,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine arrived in Mexico from Mumbai on Sunday, with more to follow in the week ahead, along with a shipment from Pfizer expected on Tuesday, Feb. 16, which will likely be distributed to the elderly in rural communities in the weeks to follow.
…Feb. 15, 2021