Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday, after weeks of contradictory positions about whether or not he would get inoculated.
At the end of his daily morning news conference, Lopez Obrador removed his suit jacket and a military nurse administered the first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine in his left arm.
“It doesn’t hurt, it helps a lot and it protects us all,” he said. “And once again I am calling on the elderly so that we could all be vaccinated.”
Mexico is currently vaccinating its front-line workers and those aged 60 and over. But last month, Lopez Obrador, who is 67, said he would not be getting the vaccine, saying he still has antibodies after being infected with COVID-19 in January.
He switched gears again early in April, saying he would get vaccinated based on doctors’ recommendations and adding that he wanted to set an example.
Lopez Obrador, known by his acronym AMLO, has been under criticism over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. He refused to issue a nationwide mask mandate in the country, arguing it would be an infringement on individual rights, and he is rarely seen wearing a mask in public.
Mexico has been one of the countries in the world hardest hit by the coronavirus. According to Johns Hopkins University, over 212,000 people in Mexico have died from the disease, the third-highest toll in the world.
The government, which has maintained a low level of testing, believes the true number of deaths is likely much higher.
Mexico rolled out its vaccination campaign late last year, but it was beset with an insufficient number of doses and delays in shipments. It has so far given emergency authorisation to five vaccines.
According to Our World in Data, Mexico has so far vaccinated 8.7 percent of its 126 million people, lagging regionally behind the United States, Brazil and Chile.
According to the Mexican health ministry, over 14.5 million have received their first shot.
Lopez Obrador said that there are “no risks” to taking the vaccine. AstraZeneca, a two-dose regimen developed by the University of Oxford, has been linked to rare cases of blood clots.
Several countries have suspended or restricted the use of the vaccine over health concerns.
The US last month “loaned” Mexico 2.7 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which has not been authorised for use in the US.
Mexico is expected to continue to rely on the AstraZeneca vaccine. In February, it received 870,000 doses from India and more are expected to arrive through the vaccine-sharing programme COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility (COVAX).
After taking the jab, Lopez Obrador said that he would go rest for 20 minutes, as is recommended by health professionals.
“Right now I’m feeling very good,” he said.