Mexico on Wednesday became the first Latin American country to receive coronavirus vaccines for mass immunization against a disease that has had a devastating impact across much of the region.
The government plans to start inoculations on Thursday after the first 3,000 doses produced by US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech arrived by courier plane from Belgium.
The vaccines were whisked to a military installation in the south of Mexico City, guarded by a security escort to prevent them from falling into the hands of the country’s powerful criminal gangs.
“Today is the beginning of the end of this pandemic,” Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard told reporters at the airport.
Mexico has registered nearly 120,000 Covid-19 deaths and around 1.34 million infections, according to the authorities, who acknowledge that the actual toll is probably much higher.
Mexico City and surrounding areas last week announced a new suspension of all non-essential activities, warning that hospitals were in danger of being overwhelmed by a spike in the number of cases.
The first vaccines will be destined for frontline medical personnel, and administered in the capital and the northern state of Coahuila due to the logistics related to the frigid temperatures required.
The foreign ministry said that 1.4 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine would arrive by January 31, out of the 34.4 million that the US company has agreed to deliver.
Mexico has the world’s fourth highest Covid-19 fatality toll after the United States, Brazil and India.