Mexico’s doctors protest as vaccines denied to frontline health workers

Ana Sofía is a radiologist at a state-run hospital in the Mexican city of Monterrey, not far from the Texas border. Her work often brings her into close contact with patients but says she was denied a coronavirus vaccination as her superiors did not consider her to be a frontline worker.

In despair, she attended a rural vaccination event for the elderly and asked for a leftover dose of the Sinovac jab – but she was again rebuffed, this time by political operatives who told her: “Wait your turn.”

“It was the worst thing that I’ve had to do in my life: beg for a universal right,” she said. “They had orders to just vaccinate seniors and they threw away the extra doses.”

Mexico has administered roughly 27.7m doses – about 10.9% of the population – and President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has expressed hopes all adults will have had at least one dose by October.

But vaccines have still been denied to many doctors, dentists and medical workers in private medicine – and also some medical staff in public institutions – even though more health workers have died during the pandemic in Mexico than any other country in the hemisphere, according to the Pan-American Health Organisation.

Further fueling their discontent was a decision to vaccinate teachers – from both private and public schools – ahead of private-sector physicians.

That decision extended to bureaucrats in the public education secretariat and support staff at universities. Even reporters and editors at media outlets run by public schools boasted of being vaccinated.

“This is a political decision because the WHO has always said that countries have to give priority to health workers,” said Roselyn Lemus-Martin, a Mexican Covid researcher who said that policy reflect two looming deadlines: midterm elections on 6 June and a return to in-person classes in Mexico City schools on 7 June.

“It seems like [the president] prefers having vaccinated teachers because he would have votes assured, and there’s an urgency to return to face-to-face classes,” she said.

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