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A nurse was the first person in Mexico to receive the vcaccine. Photo: Pedro Pardo/AFP via Getty

Mexico became the first Latin American country to begin coronavirus vaccinations, amid a surge in cases, the New York Times reports.

Why it matters: The serum arrives as Mexico's hospitals reach a breaking point. The country tallies over 1.3 million COVID-19 cases and 120,000 deaths, per John Hopkins University data, though actual numbers are believed to be much higher.

The big picture: Authorities are prioritizing health care workers in December and January before moving to vaccinate older Mexicans most at risk.

  • The first 3,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine were delivered in Mexico on Wednesday, and vaccinations began the next day; another 50,000 doses are set to arrive this month.
  • Hospitals have buckled under the recent spike in cases. 85% of beds are filled according to official figures per NYT.
  • Mexico City, a COVID hotspot, banned nonessential activities last week in an effort to curb the spread of the virus.

Context: Latin American countries have suffered high death counts as the pandemic ravages health care systems and ruptures economies.

  • Costa Rica, Chile and Argentina are expected to begin their own vaccination campaigns this month.

What to watch: Brazil has an even higher case count than Mexico, with 7.3 million and more than 189,000 deaths. Brazil’s health regulatory agency has not yet approved any vaccine, per NYT.

Go deeper

Jan 29, 2021 - Health

J&J says its one-shot vaccine is 66% effective against moderate to severe COVID

Photo: Thiago Prudêncio/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Johnson & Johnson announced Friday that its single-shot coronavirus vaccine was 66% effective in protecting against moderate to severe COVID-19 disease in Phase 3 trials, which was comprised of nearly 44,000 participants across eight countries.

Between the lines: The vaccine was 72% effective in the U.S., but only 57% effective in South Africa, where a more contagious variant has been spreading. It prevented 85% of severe infections and 100% of hospitalizations and deaths, according to the company.

Jan 30, 2021 - World

Science helps New Zealand avoid another coronavirus lockdown

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (L) visits a lab at Auckland University in December. Photo: Phil Walter/Getty Images

New Zealand has avoided locking down for a second time over COVID-19 community cases because of a swift, science-led response.

Why it matters: The Health Ministry said in an email to Axios Friday there's "no evidence of community transmission" despite three people testing positive after leaving managed hotel isolation. That means Kiwis can continue to visit bars, restaurants and events as much of the world remains on lockdown.