City worker Alexis Hernandez delivers a COVID-19 patient with an oxygen tank in the Mexican neighborhood of Iztapalapa on Friday, January 15, 2021. The city is offering free oxygen refills for COVID-19 patients. (AP Photo / Marco Ugarte)

The pandemic in Mexico continued at a high level on Friday when President Andrés Manuel López Obrador granted governors permission to purchase coronavirus vaccines themselves.

Officials reported just over 21,000 newly confirmed viral infections a day after the country posted a record 22,339 cases. COVID-19-related deaths in the past 24 hours hit 1,440, compared to a record 1,803 Thursday.

The Mexican federal government has received about 750,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine to date, of which nearly 600,000 have been given. The country has 750,000 frontline medical workers who need two cans, or about 1.5 million shots, every time.

This points to a long wait for Mexico’s 130 million residents, and governors and the private sector have urged the government to allow them to purchase vaccines themselves. López Obrador said Friday that they can do so as long as they inform federal officials and only use approved vaccines.

“We buy vaccines, but it would be petty to tell those who want to help that they won’t be approved,” said López Obrador.

The Mexican Employers’ Association welcomed the decision, saying that “the goals of the national vaccination strategy can only be achieved through coordinated action between government, state governments and the private sector”.

Mexico says it’s okay to get less Pfizer vaccine for now

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