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News Article

COVID-19: Mexico’s Primary Cause of Death

By Miriam Bello | Tue, 01/25/2022 - 12:49

COVID-19 was the leading cause of death in Mexico during the first half of 2021, found INEGI. The infectious disease displaced heart diseases and diabetes, which had held the top spots for years prior to the pandemic.

In Jan. 2021, Mexico reported 30,000 COVID-19-related deaths, its largest death toll in a month. By the end of February, the country reached the third highest death toll in the world. Besides the numerous deaths, the COVID-19 wave heavily stressed Mexico’s health system. Eight out of 10 hospital beds were occupied in Mexico City, the epicenter of the outbreak, and emergency rooms were unable to receive more patients, reported The New York Ties at the time. Moreover, many patients refuse to seek medical attention, as a result of mistrust in Mexico’s health system.

This wave of contagion also caused an oxygen tank shortage in Mexico, leading many to turn to the black market and pay exorbitant prices for them. During the first weeks of January, oxygen tank demand in the country increased by 700 percent. The international NGO Program for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH) shared that, globally, low and middle-income countries needed 1.63 m3 of oxygen per day, while Mexico required 716,807 m3 of daily oxygen.

Black market oxygen tanks quickly proved dangerous, as many reported being sold industrial or unapproved oxygen tanks instead of those for medical use. Stolen equipment or frauds via social media were also common at the time. At the time, vaccination of people over 60 years old had just started, while vaccination of public health workers was finalizing.

A year later, Mexico is going through another peak of contagion with cases skyrocketing since the start of 2022. But many things have changed. First, Mexico has vaccinated around 60 percent of its population and booster shots are quickly being distributed to those who need them.

Second, the most common SARS-CoV-2 variant is Omicron, which causes less severe symptoms than previous versions mutations but is up to five times more transmissible than the Delta variant, which was responsible for the previous COVID-19 peak. According to data from Excelsior, hospital bed occupation in Mexico City is at 60 percent, whereas during Delta it was 80-100 percent.

Third, proper medical care for COVID-19 patients is better known and treatments for the disease, such as Merck and Pfizer’s pills, are finding their way to the Mexican market. The Ministry of Health recently announced that the country is negotiating with Merck and Pfizer to acquire and distribute molnupiravir and paxlovid, the approved medicines for treating patients with COVID-19.

Miriam Bello Miriam Bello Senior Journalist and Industry Analyst