Mexican private doctors say they were left out of the launch of the COVID-19 vaccine By Reuters

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2/2 © Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Outbreak in Mexico City 2/2

By Cassandra Garrison MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexico’s private healthcare personnel are protesting being left out of the government‘s COVID-19 vaccine launch, just as the country prepares for a possible third wave of infections. Enraged by what they see as discrimination by a government that prioritizes the public sector, hundreds of healthcare workers who had gathered outside a medical school last week in hopes of getting vaccinated ended up yelling “we want the vaccine.” About 500 of the protesters finally got their wish that day. “We realized they weren’t even taking us into account,” said David Berrones, an ophthalmologist in Mexico City who last month released an informal census of medical professionals waiting for an injection. The government said it did include front-line private healthcare workers in its initial vaccination plans, but that efforts to reach all of them were hampered by unreliable personnel records. Mexico’s doctors have paid a heavy price in the crisis. At least 3,679 medical staff have died in the pandemic that has so far killed more than 200,000 people in Mexico, according to the latest official data. The death toll is the highest in the world for health workers, according to Amnesty International. The government has warned that a further increase in infections could follow the recent Easter holidays. Berrones and other frustrated medical professionals argue that Mexico’s left-wing government prioritized public sector workers. While official figures from Mexico suggest that many thousands of health workers are still waiting for vaccines, the data does not distinguish between the public and private sectors. Mexico had 964,000 health workers working in the public sector in 2019, according to government figures. Reuters was unable to establish how many private sector health workers there are in Mexico. Berrones said more than 28,700 members of the medical and dental staff had signed his census since March 11, including some from the public sector. More than 877,500 healthcare workers had received at least one dose of the vaccine as of April 7, according to government data, with no breakdown between public or private. Mexico has so far administered almost 9.7 million doses of vaccines throughout the country. Older people and teachers have also been prioritized. By comparison, Brazil, which has vaccinated a similar portion of the population, has administered more than 7.3 million doses of vaccines to healthcare workers. Argentina has administered 1.5 million doses to health workers. Like Mexico, Brazil and Argentina do not distinguish between public and private sector workers in their data. When asked how many members of the private sector health personnel had been vaccinated, Vice Minister of Health Hugo López-Gatell, Mexico’s coronavirus czar, said this week that the government was protecting all health workers in need of protection. Efforts to identify medical professionals most at risk of infection have been complicated by “inflated” staff rosters from the private sector, Lopez-Gatell said. The Mexican Ministry of Health did not respond to requests for comment. A gynecologist in Mexico City said that he and his colleagues at a small private hospital are not yet vaccinated despite having to also work in a public hospital under a mandatory social program. “As soon as you can buy the vaccine in the United States, I will go,” he told Reuters on condition of anonymity for fear that it could cost him his job. More than 40 doctors at his hospital signed a letter, dated March 19 and seen by Reuters, demanding vaccinations. But they have not been published, he said. Meanwhile, the National Academy of Medicine of Mexico has urged the government to take into account all doctors “considering them as a group vulnerable to contracting the disease,” in a March 12 letter posted on its website. “It’s like going to war,” said the gynecologist. “Who are the people you are going to give guns to first? Soldiers, right?”