Vaccination Controversy Sparks in MexicoBy Miriam Bello | Wed, 05/19/2021 - 14:49
Mexico’s vaccination efforts are receiving severe criticism from many fronts as some groups claim to have been left behind, while others are heading abroad to obtain their jabs.
One of the most evident problems was the failure to include medical staff from private hospitals and clinics in the government’s vaccination priorities. While medical professionals were among the first to receive COVID-19 vaccines, efforts focused on personnel at public hospitals while those at private institutions were skipped. The latter group also includes front-line workers in the fight against COVID-19. Instead, the government began a vaccination campaign for educational staff from both sectors during the past week. Many are questioning the logic behind vaccinating educational staff with no distinction in Mexico, to which the government stated that resuming educational activities is a priority.
President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador stated that it was “not fair” for doctors, nurses, orderlies and caretakers not working in government hospitals to be vaccinated first. He explained that these medical personnel will get the vaccine like other citizens, in the coming months and according to their age. The Washington Post called this decision classist for assuming that doctors are trying to take advantage of the health emergency by charging for their work.
While UNICEF has also called to include educational staff as a priority group, its statement highlighted that they should only be vaccinated after all medical staff in the front-line of the pandemic had been fully vaccinated. UNICEF shared the Mexican government to return to of in-person classes and foment engagement and education continuity.
Some in Mexico are flying to the US to get a COVID-19 vaccine, a phenomenon called “vaccine tourism.” MBN reported that during March 2021, Mexican airlines saw 3.17 million passengers, which exceeded the demand of March 2020 by over 20,000 people. According to A21, throughout 2021, 3.448 million passengers have traveled between Mexico and the US. Most of these visits are attributed to vaccine tourism, USA Today stated.
Why is the US an attractive destination for vaccine tourism? The US has demonstrated to have an effective vaccination system, with over 30 percent of its population vaccinated against COVID-19 to date. The US opened its COVID-19 immunization programs to foreigners in order to vaccinate everyone within its borders who could not return to their country of origin. Furthermore, some US states have doses surplus, which has opened the opportunity to vaccinate non-residents to avoid wasting the doses.
According to Dallas News, 200,000 people from Mexico have traveled to the US for a COVID-19 vaccine and among them there are left behind doctors from the Mexican private sector.
Vaccine tourism has been called unethical by some media outlets like McGill Daily. On a podcast hosted by REFORMA and Spotify, Arnoldo Kraus, member of Mexico's Bioethics College, disputed the argument that “people are taking away vaccines from someone else” as, he said, everyone has the right to a COVID-19 vaccine. Kraus explained that the large inequality gaps in the world that have given rich countries the majority of vaccines create an environment where wealthier people in Latin America to travel to the US to get a dose.