Private sector health workers who have not been vaccinated against Covid-19 continued to protest this week, but President López Obrador is maintaining his position that they must wait their turn to get a shot.
There were protests in Mexico City and several other states on Wednesday, but the turnout was nowhere near as large as expected. The organization Yo Soy Médico 17 had called for mass marches and rallies in 76 cities in all 32 states across the country.
López Obrador pounced on the low turnout at his regular news conference on Thursday.
“They organized a demonstration yesterday, [but] people didn’t gather,” he said. “It’s not that I’m against [private sector health workers], it’s that saying ‘vaccinate me’ is not fair. No! If it’s not your turn [according to the age-based vaccine schedule], no!”
López Obrador criticized private sector doctors for putting on their white coats and taking their complaints about not being vaccinated to the media.
“… We have to vaccinate seniors [first]; they’re the most vulnerable,” he said, despite the government’s initial announcement that all healthcare workers would be vaccinated before anyone else.
The president claimed that there is a smear campaign against his government because many private sector health workers have actually been vaccinated.
“Public and private sector doctors and nurses were vaccinated [in the first stage of the rollout], … there is a lot of manipulation,” López Obrador said.
However, according to Vacunas Médicos MX, an organization advocating the early vaccination of all health workers, there are more than 31,000 private sector health workers who haven’t been inoculated.
Many of them are doctors who work in private practice, including doctor’s officers attached to pharmacies, where they may not face the same risk of exposure to the coronavirus as those who work with Covid-19 patients in hospitals but nevertheless run the risk of being infected.
At least 137 doctors who work in private practice have died from Covid-19, according to the president of Unifacc, a national union that represents private sector doctors.
“They’re making us invisible in a cruel way; it’s as though we don’t exist,” Óscar Zavala told the newspaper El Universal.
“They tell us to wait our turn, but in … this pandemic we’re also part of the army that has confronted it. Now they’re accusing us of creating campaigns against the government. They are lies; our demand is just. … We can’t deny [patients] consultations. We can’t close doctors’ offices … and for those who work in the pharmacy doctors’ offices, [the equation] is simple: if they don’t work, they don’t eat,” he said.
“We can’t ask people with a cough or with respiratory illness symptoms to bring a negative Covid-19 test result,” said one doctor who works in a clinic that adjoins a pharmacy.
“I’m 44 and I haven’t had the vaccine. I thought that I would be included in the [early stages of] the vaccination plan because I’m a health worker, but it seems that we don’t count. I don’t go out to protest, and I don’t go to [the president’s] morning press conference but not because I’m not against [the decision not to vaccinate all private sector medical personnel],” he said. “But if I don’t work, I don’t earn a salary.”
Vacunas Médicos MX said on Twitter that it was continuing to lobby the government to gain access to vaccines for private sector workers who haven’t yet been given shots. Vaccination has the potential to save lives, it added.
Fifteen private sector doctors initiated legal action against the government because they haven’t yet been given the opportunity to get a shot, and a México state court issued an injunction ordering federal authorities to make Covid-19 vaccines available to them.
López Obrador said Thursday that the government will comply with any court orders for it to make vaccines available but also took a swipe at the doctors who requested the injunction and the judge who granted it, claiming the intention was to attack the government.
“Judges are acting expeditiously when it’s a matter of damaging us or [if] they think they’re harming us,” he said. “If there is an injunction and a judge orders us to vaccinate a person, we’ll have to vaccinate him because we have to comply with the law.”
“But I say to the people [who requested the injunction]. Is it fair? Is it a legal matter? Don’t you think it is a moral issue? … Why do we go to church? Why do we take communion? Why do we confess if we don’t act with integrity, if we want to be first?” López Obrador said.
He criticized those who prioritize themselves over the greater good, asserting that it was the attitude that prevailed during the decades before he took office.
“That was the neoliberal way of thinking: individualism, egoism, influence, corruption. That is no longer permitted,” the president said. “… We have to vaccinate seniors [first] …”