Latin American countries begin mass vaccination against Covid-19

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Mexico, Chile and Costa Rica launched mass vaccination campaigns against the new coronavirus on Thursday, using the first injections of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, while Argentina received the first doses of the Russian controversial apple Sputnik V.

Medical staff primarily in Mexico and Chile were among the first to receive their vaccines, while Costa Rica began its own immunization program, and President Carlos Alvarado welcomed what “could be the beginning of the end of this pandemic”.

But global optimism eased when China and Brazil joined more than 50 governments restricting flights from Britain or air travel in both directions, after a highly contagious strain of coronavirus first appeared there.

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

Despite a new strain that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said was “up to 70 per cent more transmissible” than the original coronavirus, Britain said rail and maritime links with France would remain open over Christmas.

Mexico began its mass immunization program on television after receiving its first 3,000 doses of Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine from Belgium.

“It’s the best gift I could have received in 2020,” said 59-year-old Mexican nurse Maria Irene Ramirez as she received an injection at the main hospital.

Mexico has recorded more than 120,000 deaths from Covid-19 – the fourth largest toll in the world after the United States, Brazil and India.

‘Excited and nervous’

In Chile, 46-year-old care assistant Zulema Riquelme is the first person to receive an apple in the presence of President Sebastian Pinera.

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

Elizabeth Castillo, a 91-year-old wheelchair-bound 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 every moment,” she said.

In other news, Argentina received the first 300,000 doses of the controversial Russian Sputnik V vaccine on a special flight from Moscow on Thursday.

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

Argentine President Alberto Fernandez has promised to receive the first bullet of Sputnik V to prove it is reliable after criticism that it was registered before major clinical trials began.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)