The first formally approved series of COVID-19 vaccines, which arrived in Latin America, was welcomed on Wednesday at ceremonies tailored to the VIP: flags, television cameras and dignitaries lined up along the runway.
The DHL flight was delayed at Mexico City International Airport, and the ground crew unloaded the first series of ultra-cold vaccines produced by Pfizer and BioNTech.
“Today is the beginning of the end of that pandemic,” said Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard, one of the officials who came to see the plane land.
Mexico expects to receive 1.4 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech products by the end of January.
The first vaccines should be given to health workers in Mexico City and the northern city of Saltillo starting Thursday.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said he would demand that the vaccine be used in additional areas while officials want to reach workers in nearly 1,000 hospitals treating coronavirus patients across the country.
Senior citizens and people with chronic diseases should be next in line to receive vaccinations.
Mexico recorded a total of 1.3 million COVID-19 infections and 119,495 deaths related to the disease, the fourth highest death toll in the world.
Shipments of the Pfizer vaccine are due to arrive in some other Latin American countries this week, and candidates for vaccines from other manufacturers have already arrived in Brazil and some other nations until they are formally approved by their health authorities.
The Brazilian Ministry of Health expects that at least 150 million doses of vaccine against COVID-19 will be available in the first half of 2021, and a third or more comes from a Chinese company.
Arnaldo Medeiros, a health ministry official, said at a congressional hearing on Tuesday that the initial deal to procure 46 million doses of the vaccine developed by China’s Sons Biotech could soon be expanded to 100 million doses.
On Wednesday, the Sao Paulo government’s Bhutan Institute is expected to present data from its latest trial of the Sinovac vaccine, called CoronaVac, which has already started work from its filling and finishing production line.
President Jair Bolsonaro suppressed the vaccine, citing doubts about its “origin” and trading in the prickly governor of Sao Paulo, Joao Doria, a political rival. But the Ministry of Health has eagerly secured supplies as the global rush for vaccines heats up.
The Fiocruz biomedical center of the federal government is expected to start filling and completing the AstraZeneca vaccine in the coming months, delivering the first injections on February 8. The ministry expects 104 million doses by June, officials said.
Separately, the ministry is negotiating with Pfizer to receive the eight million doses of vaccine it developed with German BioNTech in the first half of 2021.
No vaccine against COVID-19 has yet been approved for use in Brazil.
Also Wednesday, Argentina gave emergency approval for the use of the Russian Sputnik COVID-19 vaccine, the health ministry said in a statement, becoming the third country after Russia and Belarus to approve the vaccine.
The first doses of Sputnik were expected to arrive in Argentina in the coming days, officials from both countries said. About 42,254 people have died from COVID-19 in Argentina so far, according to official data.
“The product represents an acceptable benefit-risk balance,” the Argentine National Authority for Medicines, Food and Medical Technology or ANMAT said in a statement.
Some Western scientists have expressed concern about the speed with which Russia has been working, giving a regulatory green light for its vaccines and launching large-scale vaccinations before completing full trials to test the safety and efficacy of Sputnik V. Russia says the criticism is unfounded.
Kirill Dmitriev, head of Russia’s sovereign wealth fund RDIF, told Reuters that Argentina would receive 300,000 doses of the Sputnik vaccine on Thursday. He said that it is one of the largest deliveries of any vaccine to Latin America.
“This is a very important step. We believe this is great news for Argentina for Christmas. We should all try to help each other given the circumstances, “Dmitriev said.
There was a great demand for Sputnik from other Latin American countries, Dmitrijev said, adding that he expected further news about Sputnik’s deliveries to the region in January.