Mexico Gets Ready for the Vaccine

As COVID-19 vaccines roll out across the world (check out William Shakespeare receiving his shot in the U.K.), the Mexican government announced a delivery calendar to its citizens. The inoculation scheme will happen in five stages. The effort will begin this month, tending to front line health workers while the rest of the population will line up for their nick between June of 2021 and March of 2022. Different vulnerable groups will take their turn in-between.

The Ministry of Health expects the arrival of 250 thousand doses this month, with a deal signed with Pfizer to deliver 34 million total vaccines. Mexico's population is around 125 million. The Stages are planned as follows:

  1. Front Line Health Workers (Dec 2020 - Feb 2021)

  2. Other Health Workers and People Over 60 Years of Age (Feb 2021 - Apr 2021)

  3. People between 50 and 59 Years of Age (Apr 2021 - May 2021)

  4. People between 40 and 49 Years of Age (May 2021 - June 2021)

  5. Rest of the Population (June 2021 - Mar 2022)

As in other countries, discussions have been made about who should receive the vaccine first: the young, the old, the economically disadvantaged? What if someone in Stage 4 is more vulnerable to those in Stage 3? I have even witnessed, in the realm of Twitter, users calling for vaccines to be made available only to those who did not go out or get sick during the period of confinement. Nothing escapes polarization. 

Questions about the vaccine's safety and efficacy have happened, but not as prominently as in other countries. Instead, the debate has been about the use of masks; as President Trump, President López has dragged his feet about it. As a cultural note: in Mexico, face-masks are called cubrebocas, literally mouth-covers, which might lead to linguistic confusion about the need to also cover your nose. 

President López's attitude has been criticized since the beginning of the pandemic. For months he has refused to set an example about the use of masks. His family and members of his party have appeared in public addresses and events without wearing one. When asked if he will get vaccinated, Mr. López answers that he will accede to it when the time comes; he is 67 years old. 

Some (me included) think he should be among the first inoculated to prove how safe it is. After all, he is keen to talk about himself using the royal we every day for two hours on national television. His government also makes a big deal of communicating directly with the pueblo (the people, das mexikanische Volk) and is very conscious about using nationalistic flare and imagery. 

During one of the presidential debates in the U.S., President Trump declared that he would use "his generals" to help distribute the vaccine. In Mexico, as a matter of national security, the Mexican Armed Forces will help with this task. However, this is not a matter of improvisation. The Mexican Army and the Mexican Navy have bravely come to aid the population during natural disasters or public emergencies as part of the Civil Relief and Aid Plan for Disasters (Plan DN-III-E).

State governments have been left in charge of managing local hospitals and imposing restrictions on citizens' commerce or movement. Most have fared not so well. In Nuevo León, for example, last weekend, all restaurants, markets, and stores, were closed after a brief announcement during the week. People were caught off-guard and panicked, crowding, and standing in long lines. The measure will repeat at least twice before Christmas. 

An exchange between a citizen-journalist and the President of Mexico´s Electoral Institute (INE). Mr. Gómez falsely claims that INE is planning on halting the application of vaccines during the electoral period.

News about the vaccine has been well received. Hopefully, it will not turn into a moral hazard. More than 110 thousand people have lost their lives already in Mexico, placing the country just after India, Brazil, and the U.S. The country's population, geographic size, and urban-rural divide will pose logistical more than political challenges. Let's hope Mexico also inoculates against ignorance. 

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