MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexico’s coronavirus death toll topped 200,000 on Thursday, making it only the third country in the world to hit the grim milestone, as a vaccination campaign struggling to pick up pace and upcoming holidays fuel fears of a third wave of infections.
Some residents are imploring others to do their part to keep cases from surging again, after hospitals in some of the country’s most populated urban centers, such as Mexico City and neighboring State of Mexico, were overwhelmed by the last wave.
“Just because the vaccines are here, it’s wrong to think that everything is solved … It’s time for us to be more careful so this situation ends,” said 30-year-old cashier Pamela Padilla. She said she was fed up of being isolated or having to socially distance when going out.
Mexico began vaccinating the public against COVID-19 last year, one of the region’s earliest rollouts, but the effort has been hampered by delays in vaccine deliveries due to bottlenecks in supply, prompting the government to complain about hoarding by richer countries.
As of Wednesday, Mexico had administered 6.1 million total vaccine doses, with only 767,979 people having received the full two doses, or just 0.6% of the population.
By comparison, in the United States 130.5 million total doses have been administered and 14% of the population is fully vaccinated, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In order to better protect against a potential new wave of infections Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said he would tap the armed forces and medical personnel to accelerate the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines.
“We must be prepared to face a possible third wave of the pandemic in better circumstances,” Lopez Obrador said at a regular news conference on Wednesday.
According to health ministry data, Mexico reported 5,787 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 584 more fatalities on Thursday, bringing the total to 2,214,542 infections and 200,211 deaths.
The real number of infections and deaths is likely significantly higher than the official count, the ministry has said, due to a lack of widespread testing.
Official Mexican government data, updated through Jan. 2, show there were 326,609 excess deaths since the start of the pandemic.
“It’s sad to see so many young and old people dying,” said 74-year-old Yolanda Santos, after receiving her second dose of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine.
“This is a blessing from God for us to have these vaccines,” Santos added.
(Reporting by Alberto Fajardo; Writing by Anthony Esposito; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Alexandra Hudson)