People over age 60 wait to get a shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine for COVID-19 as Mexico begins vaccinating its elderly population for the new coronavirus in the outlying Milpa Alta borough of Mexico City, Monday, Feb. 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

People over age 60 wait to get a shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine for COVID-19 as Mexico begins vaccinating its elderly population for the new coronavirus in the outlying Milpa Alta borough of Mexico City, Monday, Feb. 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

Mexico begins vaccinating seniors against COVID-19

MEXICO CITY — Mexico began vaccinating senior citizens in more than 300 municipalities across the country Monday after receiving some 870,000 doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.

Most of the effort was concentrated in remote rural communities, but in a few far-flung corners of the sprawling capital, hundreds of Mexicans over the age of 60 lined up before dawn for the chance to get vaccinated.

Officials encouraged to people to not come at once, but rather to spread themselves through the day, but with shots distributed first-come, first-served, the demand was immediate.

The government has designated 1,000 vaccination sites, including schools and health centres, mostly in the country’s poorest communities.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador conceded Monday that bad weather and snow had kept the vaccine from arriving to some isolated areas in Mexico’s northwest. He said the armed forces, which are in charge of logistics for the vaccination campaign, were working to access those areas.

Mexico started vaccinating health workers in mid-December with some 726,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

In addition to the AstraZeneca shots, 2 million doses of the Chinese CanSino vaccine are being bottled in Mexico. Another shipment of Pfizer’s vaccine is also expected this week. Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine and another from China that have received emergency approval from Mexican regulators are also expected eventually.

López Obrador encouraged seniors to get vaccinated. “There aren’t risks,” he said, adding that the government’s plan would make the vaccine available to everyone. “It’s for the rich and the poor, it’s for everyone.”

Mexico has had more than 1.9 million confirmed COVID-19 infections and at least 174,000 confirmed deaths. The government hopes to have everyone over age 60 vaccinated by mid-April. The goal that would mean getting at least one dose into the arms of more than 15 million people in less than two months.

Mexico created a website for seniors to register for the vaccine, but it suffered from technological problems during the initial days due to the high demand. While some getting vaccinated Monday in the capital had registered on the site and received a text message confirming their slot, officials said seniors who showed up wouldn’t be turned away.

Eduardo Clark, head of the capital’s technology office, said on Milenio Television Monday that even those who didn’t register online would be vaccinated.

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