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Mexico starts giving first shots of Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine

Health worker Maria Ramírez is the first to get vaccinated for COVID-19 at the General Hospital in Mexico City, early Thursday, Dec. 24, 2020. The first batches of vaccines produced by Pfizer and its German partner, BioNTech arrived the previous day. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)

MEXICO CITY (AP) — An intensive care nurse in Mexico City Thursday became the first person in Latin America to receive an approved coronavirus vaccine.

Mexico began administering the first 3,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in a broadcast ceremony in which Maria Irene Ramirez, 59, got the first shot, under the watchful eyes of military personnel who escorted the vaccine shipment.

“This is the best present I could have received in 2020,” said Ramirez. “The truth is we are afraid, but we have to keep going because someone has to be in the front line of this battle.”

Assistant Health Secretary Hugo López-Gatell waxed poetic, saying, “Today the stage of the epidemic and its treatment changes, to a ray of hope.”

Zoé Robledo, director of Mexico’s social security system, called it “an forgettable Christmas. We are sure this is going to be the beginning of the end of the pandemic.”

Other medical personnel also began getting the shots in the cities of Toluca and Queretaro.

Foreign Relations Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said Mexico was the first country in Latin America to get the vaccine, though others were close behind.

Chile said it was receiving 10,000 doses on Thursday and Argentina, which has run into problems obtaining the Pfizer vaccine, received a flight carrying 300,000 doses of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine, though it cannot yet be given to people older than 60 due to a lack of testing data.

While Mexico got only 3,000 doses arrived in the first shipment Wednesday, Ebrard said about 53,000 more doses would arrive by Tuesday, about 1.4 million doses in January and a total of about 11.75 million by mid-year.

Ebrard said two vaccines are currently undergoing Phase 3 studies in Mexico and another three are awaiting approval to start.

Other countries around the region are engaged in testing several vaccines, in studies that involve tens of thousands of volunteers.