Latin American countries begin mass Covid-19 vaccinations

·2-min read

Mexico, Chile and Costa Rica launched mass vaccination campaigns against the novel coronavirus on Thursday, administering the first shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, while Argentina received its first doses of Russia's controversial Sputnik V jab.

Frontline medical staff in Mexico and Chile were among the first to receive their vaccines while Costa Rica began its own immunization program, with President Carlos Alvarado hailing what "may be the beginning of the end of this pandemic".

But global optimism was tempered as China and Brazil joined more than 50 governments restricting flights from Britain or air traffic in both directions, after the highly infectious new coronavirus strain first appeared there.

Thousands of trucks remained stranded at a major British port as France sent 10,000 kits to test drivers before allowing them to cross the Channel.

Despite the new strain that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said was "up to 70 percent more transmissible" than the original coronavirus, Britain said rail and sea links with France would remain open over Christmas.

Mexico televised the start of its mass immunisation programme after it received its first 3,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine from Belgium.

"It's the best gift I could receive in 2020," 59-year-old Mexican nurse Maria Irene Ramirez said as she received the injection at a hospital in the capital.

Mexico has registered more than 120,000 Covid-19 deaths – the world's fourth highest toll after the United States, Brazil and India.

'Excited and nervous'

In Chile, 46-year-old nursing assistant Zulema Riquelme was the first person shown receiving the jab in the presence of President Sebastian Pinera.

"I'm very excited and nervous," she said, hours after the first 10,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine arrived by plane.

Elizabeth Castillo, a wheelchair-bound, 91-year-old nursing home resident, was the first person in Costa Rica to be vaccinated.

"I am very grateful to God, because I have asked so much of him. My life is very important to me, so take advantage of every moment," she said.

Argentina, meanwhile, received the first 300,000 doses of Russia's controversial Sputnik V vaccine on Thursday on a special flight from Moscow.

The country is the first in Latin America to approve the Russian vaccine.

Argentina's President Alberto Fernandez has vowed to receive the first Sputnik V shot to prove it is reliable after criticism that it was registered before the start of large-scale clinical trials.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)