Chile and Costa Rica will begin the coronavirus vaccination rollout on Thursday, joining Mexico to be among the first countries in Latin America to launch mass vaccination campaigns.
Mexico launched a mass vaccination program on Thursday, with a nurse who was the first to be shown receiving the vaccine in the country with one of the highest COVID-19 death rates in the world.
The televised launch took place a day after the arrival of the first 3,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine by courier plane from Belgium.
Meanwhile, the first 10,000 doses of an order of 10 million Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines reached Chile on Thursday with vaccinations for health workers in the hardest-hit areas to begin immediately.
Chile is the first country in South America to start vaccinating against COVID. Costa Rica also received its first delivery of doses of Pfizer on Wednesday, while Argentina awaited the first doses of the Russian Sputnik COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday.
Chilean President Sebastian Pinera said the country had obtained 30 million coronavirus vaccines from three suppliers, enough to inoculate 15 million people – more than two-thirds of the population – in the first half of 2021.
The doses arrived at Santiago airport from Pfizer’s manufacturing center in the city of Puurs in Belgium just before 7 a.m. (10 a.m. GMT) on Christmas Eve, according to a presidential statement.
The doses were transferred by police helicopter to a logistics center in the capital Santiago, with vaccinations due to start later in the morning.
Chile is among the countries in Latin America to have the most bilateral agreements with pharmaceutical companies, including agreements with AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Sinovac as well as with the COVAX global vaccine distribution program.
Meanwhile, Costa Rican President Carlos Alvarado Quesada told a press conference that vaccinations would start there on Thursday.
“This may be the beginning of the end of this pandemic,” he added.
The Costa Rican leader was at Juan Santamaria Airport in the capital San Jose to welcome a flight delivering the first 9,750 doses of the vaccine, which arrived at 9 p.m. (03:00 GMT Thursday).
Costa Rica announced last week that it had approved the vaccine, with health workers and the elderly now to be the first to receive injections.
The country of about five million people recorded more than 160,000 cases of the coronavirus as of Wednesday, with 2,065 deaths.
Like many others in the region, her healthcare system has been strained by the number of infections.
Brazil and Mexico were particularly affected, which became the first Latin American country to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Wednesday.
The Central American country now has more people hospitalized for COVID-19 than it saw at the height of the first wave of the pandemic in late July.
The health ministry said 18,301 people were in hospitals across Mexico being treated for illness that may be caused by the coronavirus. This is 0.4% more than in July.
Mexico City, the capital, is the epicenter of the current wave of infections and 85% of its hospital beds are in use.
Morelos state, just south of the capital, became the fourth of Mexico’s 32 states to declare a “red” alert, which will lead to a partial lockdown and the closure of non-essential businesses from Thursday. .
Mexico has recorded more than 1.3 million cases of COVID-19 and more than 120,000 deaths related to the disease, the fourth highest death toll in the world, according to a count from Johns Hopkins University.
Medical staff will be on the front lines Thursday when vaccinations with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine begin in Mexico City.
Elsewhere in Latin America, Argentina is expected to receive 25 million doses of the controversial Russian vaccine Sputnik V.