MEXICO CITY -- Mexico plans to begin vaccinating its people against COVID-19 at the end of the third week of December, starting with health workers, the government announced Tuesday.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said the vaccines will be “universal and free” — and also voluntary — and he hopes the full population will be vaccinated by the end of 2021.
Officials said that starting in February, those over 60 will receive vaccinations, followed by those over 50 in April and over 40 in May. They urged people with risk factors to get vaccinated first.
The 67-year-old president himself said he would get vaccinated in February, along with his age group.
The government already has contracted for 34.4 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and it said earlier that 250,000 of those are expected to arrive around Dec. 17.
The armed forces will distribute them to vaccination sites, initially in Mexico City and the northern border state of Coahuila.
The government's point man on the pandemic, Assistant Secretary Hugo López-Gatell, said Mexico's health regulatory agency is expected to approve the vaccine on Dec. 11, a day after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expected to do so.
Britain was the first nation to approve the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and began its innoculation campaign on Monday.
López-Gatell said the pace of vaccination could be accelerated as more approved vaccines arrive from other sources. Mexico this week plans to sign a deal to purchase 35 million doses of the CanSino vaccine from China.
Mexico has reported 1.18 million confirmed infections with the new coronavirus and at least 110,074 deaths from COVID-19, though both are acknowledged to be undercounts.