Mexico enters the darkest days of the COVID-19 pandemic

A member of the public walks past new artwork created by street artist The Rebel Bear in Edinburgh city centre which features a doctor administering a vaccine injection into a coronavirus-shaped balloon. Jane Barlow | PA Images | Getty Images

Nearly a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, Mexico is entering its darkest days yet.

Hospitals in many states are near capacity. Ventilators and oxygen tanks are in scarce supply. More people are dying than ever before.

At a medical center set up on a Mexico City military base, morgue workers can’t keep up.

“In the end you’re just stacking people in piles,” said Dr. Giorgio Alberto Franyuti Kelly, chief of biosecurity for the military, who treats patients at the makeshift hospital.

Large-scale vaccination is widely seen as the clearest way out. Yet this last week the government announced that its inoculation program — one of the most ambitious in Latin America — had essentially come to a standstill.

The country of 128 million people has received just 766,350 doses of vaccine, all produced by Pfizer-BioNTech.

That figure was supposed to hit 1.5 million by the end of the month, but Pfizer now says it can’t meet that goal because it is remodeling one of its factories in Europe to eventually boost production.

Mexican officials described the delay as a minor setback and said shipments from Pfizer are expected to resume Feb. 15.

“It is simply going to be temporarily postponed,” said Mexico’s undersecretary of health, Dr. Hugo López-Gatell, who is leading the nation’s pandemic response.

But health experts warned that the pause in vaccinations could have serious consequences because roughly half a million medical workers who have received an initial dose will be forced to wait longer than is optimal for the critical second dose.

Pfizer says its shots should be given three weeks apart.

López-Gatell said there is no cause for panic, pointing to studies that show that the vaccine may still be quite effective if the second dose is administered within four weeks.

After failing to acknowledge the threat of the coronavirus early in the pandemic and conduct the widespread testing needed to fight it, the Mexican government earned praise for its vaccination strategy.

Early on, Mexico made agreements with several companies working on vaccines, and it was the first nation in Latin America to begin vaccination, on Dec. 24.

Officials in Mexico said they have already made deals to purchase enough vaccine to inoculate the entire country.

By KATE LINTHICUM for LOS ANGELES TIMES

Source: LA Times



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