Virus-plagued Mexico begins mass coronavirus vaccination

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Nurse Maria Irene Ramirez was the first person in Mexico shown receiving the coronavirus vaccine under a mass immunization program

Mexico started a mass coronavirus vaccination program on Thursday with a nurse first to be shown receiving the jab in the country with one of the world's highest Covid-19 death tolls.

The televised launch came a day after the first 3,000 doses produced by US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech arrived by courier plane from Belgium.

The first batch of vaccines, which are being guarded by the military to prevent them falling into criminals' hands, is destined for frontline medical personnel.

Maria Irene Ramirez, a 59-year-old nurse, received the first televised injection at a hospital in Mexico City.

"It's the best gift I could receive in 2020," she said.

"It makes me safer and gives me more courage to continue in the war against an invisible enemy. We're afraid but we must continue."

Mexico has registered more than 120,000 Covid-19 deaths and around 1.35 million infections, according to the authorities, who acknowledge that the actual toll is probably much higher.

Mexico City and surrounding areas last week announced a new suspension of all non-essential activities, warning that hospitals were in danger of being overwhelmed by a spike in the number of cases.

Mexico has the world's fourth highest Covid-19 death toll after the United States, Brazil and India.

The government has promised to make vaccinations available free of charge across the country of almost 129 million people -- a massive logistical challenge.

Mexico was the first country in Latin America to receive the vaccine, followed closely by Chile and Costa Rica which were also due to begin immunization programs on Thursday.

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