LatAm countries begin mass vaccinations

Europe fears variant coronavirus strain

26 December, 2020 12:00 AM printer

MONTEVIDEO: Three Latin American countries launched mass immunisation programs on Thursday as fears grew in Europe over a variant coronavirus strain that is believed to be far more contagious than the original version, reports AFP.

Frontline medical staff in Mexico and Chile were among the first to receive their vaccines while Costa Rica began its own immunization program, with President Carlos Alvarado hailing what “may be the beginning of the end of this pandemic.”

But global optimism was tempered as China and Brazil joined more than 50 governments restricting flights from Britain or air traffic in both directions, after the highly infectious new coronavirus strain first appeared there.

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

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

Mexico televised the start of its mass immunization program after it received its first 3,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine from Belgium.

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

Mexico has registered more than 120,000 Covid-19 deaths — the world’s fourth highest toll after the United States, Brazil and India.

In Chile, 46-year-old nursing assistant Zulema Riquelme was the first person shown receiving the jab in the presence of President Sebastian Pinera.

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