US to send more COVID-19 vaccines to Mexico amid Delta surge

The announcement comes as both the US and Mexico grapple with rising infections and slow vaccination rates.

Three people are sitting in chairs waiting to be tested for COVID-19 in Mexico City
People wait to be tested for COVID-19 in Mexico City [Marco Ugarte/The Associated Press]

The United States will send up to an additional 8.5 million coronavirus vaccine doses to Mexico, as both countries continue to grapple with a spike in infections fuelled by the highly contagious Delta variant.

Speaking on Tuesday, a day after holding a phone call with US Vice President Kamala Harris, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said he expected most adults living along the border with the US will have received their second dose of the vaccine within a month.

He said both he and Harris agreed upon the importance of reopening the land border, which has been closed since March of 2020.

Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard, meanwhile, said the US would provide to Mexico 3.5 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by drugmaker Moderna, as well as up to five million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The comments came as the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new travel warnings for Israel, France, Thailand, Iceland and several other countries as infections from the Delta variant continue to spike.

Mexico has seen a steady rise in cases in recent weeks, reporting more than 6,500 new infections on Monday, although health experts said the actual number is likely much higher.

Several US states are also struggling to control recent surges, in what top infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci has dubbed a “pandemic among the unvaccinated”.

The country is currently averaging more than 120,000 new coronavirus cases a day, a rate that has doubled in recent weeks and matches that seen before the vaccine was available in the country. Currently, about 60 percent of Americans who are eligible for jabs have been completely vaccinated.

The increase in infections and slow rate of vaccinations has prompted President Joe Biden to increasingly urge state and local governments to put pressure on residents to get the jab.

Biden had previously announced rules requiring federal workers to be vaccinated or submit to regular coronavirus testing.

On Monday, the Pentagon announced that it would require all active-duty service members to be vaccinated by mid-September.

Washington also became the most recent state to require most state employees to be vaccinated or risk losing their jobs.

‘Startling numbers’

US officials have said seven states – Florida, Texas, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi – account for a disproportionate amount of infections in the country.

In Texas, two of the state’s largest school districts, Dallas and Houston, have announced mask mandates for students and staff in defiance of Governor Greg Abbott, who implemented an emergency order banning county and local government entities from requiring the wearing of masks and social distancing to lower the COVID-19 risk.

Nevertheless, on Monday Abbott appealed for out-of-state help to fight a third wave of infections in the state, which has prompted a county-owned hospital, the Harris Health System and Lyndon B Johnson Hospital in Houston, to raise tents to accommodate their COVID-19 patient overflow.

Abbott directed the Texas Department of State Health Services to use staffing agencies to find additional medical staff from beyond the state’s borders. He also has sent a letter to the Texas Hospital Association to request that hospitals postpone all elective medical procedures voluntarily.

In neighbouring Arkansas, state health officials on Monday reported the biggest one-day increase in hospitalisations since the pandemic began.

The number of people hospitalised in the state on Monday rose by 103, bringing the total to 1,376.

The state’s Department of Health reported that there were only eight intensive care unit beds available in the state as of Monday.

“Today’s report shows some very startling numbers,” Governor Asa Hutchinson said in a tweet.

Only about 37 percent of the state’s population are fully vaccinated against the virus.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies