Mexico First Latin American Country With COVID-19 Vaccination Program

Mexico became the first Latin American country Thursday to launch a COVID-19 vaccination initiative, offering hope to a nation that has lost some 120,000 people to the pandemic. Maria Irene Ramirez, the 59-year-old head nurse at the intensive care unit at Mexico City’s Ruben Lenero hospital, was the first to get the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, in keeping with the country’s strategy to focus first on health care workers. “This is the best gift that I could have received in 2020,” Ramirez said after being inoculated in a ceremony broadcast by national media. Chile will immediately start inoculations of health care workers after receiving the first 10,000 doses of a 10-million dose order of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine on Thursday, officials said. Also on Thursday, Costa Rica was preparing to vaccinate two senior citizens in a home near San Jose with the vaccine, while Argentina received about 300,000 doses of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine. The first batch of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine arrives at the Juan Santamaria International Airport, as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak continues, in Alajuela, Costa Rica, Dec. 23, 2020.In the USThe United States is about to complete its second week of vaccinations with about 1 million inoculations, mainly among health care workers and elderly residents of nursing homes. The numbers, however, are far short of the goal set by Operation Warp Speed, the federal government’s effort to mass produce millions of doses of vaccines, to inoculate 20 million Americans by the end of the year.   U.S. Operation Warp Speed chief adviser Dr. Moncef Slaoui has warned that it would take longer to administer the doses.  “The commitment that we can make is to make vaccine doses available,” Slaoui said during a press call. “How fast the ramp-up of immunizations, the shots in arms, is happening is slower than we thought it would be.” The Trump administration has reached a deal worth $2 billion to secure an additional 100 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which would boost the nation’s supply to 200 million doses by mid-July 2021. With surges throughout the U.S. leading to 327,000 COVID-19 deaths and 18.5 million coronavirus infections, according to Johns Hopkins University, the speed with which immunizations can be administered becomes increasingly important.Intensive Care Unit Nurse Merlin Pambuan, 66, is cheered by hospital staff as she walks out of the hospital where she spent eight months with COVID-19, at Dignity Health – St. Mary Medical Center, in Long Beach, California, Dec. 21, 2020. California became the first U.S. state Thursday to record 2 million coronavirus cases. The grim Christmas Eve milestone was reached as the state was under a strict stay-at-home order and hospitals were overwhelmed with the largest number of infections since the pandemic began more than nine months ago. The coronavirus causes the COVID-19 disease. Sinovac vaccineBrazilian researchers said Wednesday the coronavirus vaccine developed by Chinese drug maker Sinovac Biotech was found to be more than 50% effective in a late-stage clinical trial.   But officials at the state-run research institute Butantan say they are withholding the results of the trial at Sinovac’s request, raising issues once again about the lack of transparency involving the vaccine’s development.   Tests of the Sinovac vaccine, dubbed CoronaVac, were halted last month after an “adverse, serious event” involving a volunteer participant in late October.   Sinovac is one of many drug makers around the world that have been racing to develop a safe and effective vaccine against COVID-19, which has killed more than 1.7 million people out of more than 79 million confirmed infections, according to the Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center.   New variantChina on Thursday became the latest country to suspend all travel with Britain after the discovery of a new and more contagious strain of the novel coronavirus. The new variant has swept through southern Britain in recent weeks, prompting British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to impose more restrictive lockdown measures in some parts of the country ahead of Christmas Day.   

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