Mexico became the first Latin American country Thursday to launch a COVID-19 vaccination initiative, offering hope to a nation that has lost more than 120,000 people to the pandemic.
A 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.
In the US
The 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.
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.
Iran said it has U.S. approval to transfer funds to pay for coronavirus vaccines, Central Bank Governor Abdolnaser Hemmati said Thursday.
The U.S. Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control gave permission for the transfer of $244 million to a Swiss bank to pay for initial imports of 16.8 million doses of vaccines from COVAX, the multiagency group set up to assure fair access to vaccines for all countries.
Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said Thursday that the first shipment of China’s Sinovac coronavirus vaccine should arrive in a few days.
Turkey is to receive 3 million doses of China’s vaccine, which preliminary tests in Turkey showed it to be 91% effective, although the third phase of tests is not complete. Turkey has the option for 50 million more doses as it begins inoculations next month.
Ankara will also sign a deal in the next few days with Pfizer-BioNTech for 4.5 million doses, with the option to buy 30 million more, Koca said.
In Brazil, researchers said Wednesday the Sinovac vaccine was 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.
China 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.