Four out of five people in Mexico who received influenza shots this year have declined the government’s recommendation to also receive Russian or Cuban COVID-19 boosters simultaneously, according to officials on Tuesday.
Assistant Health Secretary Ruy López Ridaura attributed the high refusal rate to people’s hesitancy in receiving two vaccines at the same time. However, the population eligible for flu and COVID-19 shots, including individuals over 60 and those with underlying health conditions, are considered high-risk. These groups had remarkably high COVID vaccine uptake rates in 2021 and 2022, as reported by the Health Department.
Some individuals seem to harbor doubts specifically about the Russian Sputnik and Cuban Abdala vaccines, both developed in 2020 for variants prevalent at that time. Andreu Comas, a professor of medicine at the Autonomous University of San Luis Potosi, expressed concerns about the effectiveness of these vaccines against current variants, stating, “It is an old antigen, it’s as if they were going to give me an influenza vaccine from 2020.”
Mexico has procured millions of doses of the Russian and Cuban vaccines, intending to administer approximately 20 million shots. However, only about 1.9 million individuals, equivalent to 9.5% of the eligible population, have consented to receive these vaccines since the vaccination campaign commenced in mid-October. In contrast, 10 million people received the influenza shot during the same period.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has shown significant support for Cuba, employing Cuban doctors, purchasing vaccines and construction materials from the country, and supplying oil to the island.
Meanwhile, Mexico has delayed the approval of Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 boosters, both designed to combat the currently circulating COVID variants. Although these shots have been approved for use in the United States since September, they may not be available to Mexicans until 2024.
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