By FÉLIX MÁRQUEZ, Associated Press
BOCA DEL RÍO, Mexico (AP) — Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador finally got a coronavirus vaccine Tuesday, after waffling on receiving the shot.
Mexico is in a race to get its population vaccinated as case numbers have begun to rise again and the country’s estimated total death toll from COVID-19 surpassed 336,000. On Tuesday, Mexico expanded efforts to vaccinate teachers to five more states.
López Obrador got a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine from a military nurse live at his daily morning press conference.
“It doesn’t hurt, and what is more, it protects us all,” López Obrador said, urging all Mexicans over 60 to get vaccinated.
The president had said in March he would hold off on getting the shot because he still had antibodies after being infected in January. But he later changed his mind after his doctors recommended he be vaccinated. He also said he wanted to set an example for others to get the shot.
Based on his age, 67, the president was scheduled to have gotten his shot in the first week of April along with other over-60s in central Mexico City.
While López Obrador sought to set an example with the vaccine, he has disdained wearing face masks himself and refused to make them mandatory in public spaces, saying that would violate people’s individual liberties.
He has also consistently refused to push for more drastic lockdowns used in other countries, calling such tactics “authoritarian.”
While Mexico’s COVID-19 caseload declined dramatically in the 11 weeks since the latest outbreak in January, infections began to rebound by about 4% over the last week, which authorities said was a cause for concern but not alarm.
Mexico has so far administered about 14.4 million vaccine doses, a small amount for a country of 126 million. The country has approved seven different vaccines and is currently using five, including the Pfizer vaccine, two Chinese shots and one from Russia.
The country began mass vaccinations of schoolteachers Tuesday, in hopes of reopening classrooms in less-affected states. The Gulf-coast state of Campeche became the first of Mexico’s 32 states to partially reopen schools on Monday, allowing grade-school students to return to classrooms with reduced class sizes and face masks.
In Boca del Río, a town in Veracruz state, teachers lined up before dawn Tuesday at a convention center to get the single-dose CanSino vaccine. Teachers saw the vaccinations as a positive step, but some expressed concerns about the conditions of their schools.
Teaching assistant Cristina Cortés Suárez said she was happy to receive the vaccine, but worried her school and others were far from ready to welcome students back to their classrooms after a year of closure.
“The conditions at my school are very bad,” Cortés said. “They entered to steal, they destroyed the air conditioning, they stole the lights, the water, everything.”
Teacher Anabel Caballero Mora said she was worried about keeping her unvaccinated students and their families safe.
“I know there are a lot of schools that were sacked,” she said. “There needs to be a survey of those schools to see which ones are in condition to begin classes because the schools are adrift.”
Mexico has suffered almost 212,500 test-confirmed deaths from COVID-19, but because the country does so little testing, authorities acknowledge the real toll is now over 336,000. That number is based on 316,344 deaths through the first week of March where COVID-19 or related symptoms were mentioned on death certificates, and 19,978 test-confirmed deaths since then.