One million single-shot Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccines donated to Mexico by the United States will be used to inoculate people aged 18 to 40 in northern border municipalities, Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said Friday.
President López Obrador said Thursday that Vice President Kamala Harris had informed him that the U.S. would send the doses to Mexico but didn’t say when they were expected to arrive.
Speaking at López Obrador’s news conference on Friday, Ebrard said that “on the instructions of the president” the Johnson & Johnson doses will be used to vaccinate those between 18 and 40 in Mexico’s border area with the United States.
“This area comprises 39 municipalities,” he added.
The foreign minister said the 1 million doses will be sufficient to inoculate one-third of the people in that age bracket, adding that the government will obtain additional doses in order to cover 100% of the cohort.
Ebrard said the aim of vaccinating that sector of the population is to “accelerate the reopening of activities at the border between Mexico and the United States.”
Goods and people have continued to flow across the border during the pandemic, but the United States has restricted nonessential cross-border travel since early last year as part of efforts to control the spread of the coronavirus, a policy that has caused economic damage to U.S. businesses that count large numbers of Mexican daytrippers among their customers.
Mexico did the same until April, when it began allowing nonessential travel into the country via border states that are low-risk green or medium-risk yellow on the federal government’s stoplight map.
Ebrard’s remarks on where the Johnson & Johnson vaccines will be deployed came after Deputy Health Minister Hugo López-Gatell said Thursday night that the donated doses could also be used in resort cities such as Cancún and Los Cabos.
Ebrard said Friday that universal vaccination in tourist destinations remained a priority but appeared to rule out the possibility of using the donated shots in such places.
He said López Obrador had instructed him to obtain vaccines to guarantee supply in tourist destinations but emphasized that they don’t have to be Johnson & Johnson shots.
“For key tourism areas of Mexico, essentially Quintana Roo, Baja California Sur, they can be other vaccines,” Ebrard said, adding that other popular destinations such as Jalisco, where Puerto Vallarta is located, and the coast of Nayarit will also be considered for early vaccination of people aged 40 and under.
Quintana Roo, and especially Cancún, is currently facing a worsening coronavirus outbreak, which prompted the governor to tighten restrictions in the state this week, while other states that depend heavily on tourism revenue, such as Yucatán and Baja California Sur, have also seen recent spikes in case numbers.
The government to date has used the Pfizer, AstraZeneca, CanSino, Sputnik V and SinoVac vaccines to inoculate the population, meaning that the Johnson & Johnson shot will be the sixth to be used in Mexico.
As of Thursday night, Mexico had received 42.3 million doses of the first five vaccines and administered almost 32.9 million of them. Almost one in five people – 18% – have received at least one shot, data shows, although that doesn’t include Mexicans who have traveled to the United States to get vaccinated.
Meanwhile, Mexico’s accumulated case tally stands at 2.42 million while the official Covid-19 death toll is 228,362, a figure considered a vast undercount, mainly due to a lack of testing.