As soon as the first rays of the morning sun fall and there are already thousands of people waiting to be vaccinated against covid-19 in Ecatepec, a huge municipality in the State of Mexico with more than 1.6 million inhabitants on the outskirts of Mexico City . The line goes around the Multideportivo de Las Américas twice and winds between vendors of tamales, police officers and small banks that seek to alleviate a wait that seems to be long. Sarahí Anaya arrived before everyone. It was planted from seven o’clock on Monday night at the doors of the vaccination center and has been setting aside the place for its relatives for almost 16 hours. “It was the most horrible night of my life,” he confesses, “but let’s hope it’s worth it.” He has not slept, has not eaten or gone to the bathroom, but she is willing to do whatever it takes. The arrival of the vaccine in one of the most populated, marginalized and hit by the pandemic has become a mission against all odds: a milestone where healthy distance fades and where chaos and hope reign. It is a double promise: to overcome the health emergency and leave the economic crisis behind.
Anaya is first in line, but 512 people will be vaccinated before her 62-year-old mother and 77-year-old mother-in-law. Authorities launched an online registration system in recent weeks, but most of the people who They arrived this Tuesday and did not receive a message or a call to know when it was time to get vaccinated. 10 sites had been contemplated to start with the vaccination, but late on Monday it was announced that six were not going to receive people due to logistics problems. Some people who had come to these centers were taken in vans to the places that were going to administer the vaccines. “It is not fair that they play like this with us,” complains Ana Molina, who was brought from the Rio de la Luz module, one of those that closed without prior notice. In the midst of the bottleneck and the complaints by those who “sneaked in”, it was the citizens who organized and wrote shifts on pieces of paper, although later the support staff came to remove themselves. Anaya has the file 513 and 514 because just over half a thousand adults over 60 years of age did not get the vaccine the day before.
“I have spent the pandemic locked up in my house, I already look like a bat,” says 77-year-old Margarita Uribe with a laugh. Until a few months ago, MargotAs she likes to be called, she came to the Multisport to swim. This Tuesday he has returned to the same place, but now with the hope of exercising again, after watching the news. On Saturday the first 200,000 doses of the Chinese vaccine from Sinovac arrived in Mexico and the health authorities decided to allocate them exclusively to Ecatepec, a municipality that has the stigma of femicidal violence, insecurity, lack of water and the negligence of its leaders.
But on the weekend the story was different. José Luis Alomía, general director of Epidemiology, explained that it is not only the point in the country where more people in situations of poverty and extreme poverty live, it also has indicators of lethality and mortality from the pandemic higher than the national average. The municipality exceeds 28,000 confirmed cases and 4,000 deaths: one in seven people who have been infected with covid has died, according to official figures. It was then decided to advance in the vaccination of the elderly in Ecatepec: one of the most vulnerable groups in one of the areas hardest hit by the epidemic. “I am very happy, for the first time we feel that they take us into account,” says Cándido Quechol, 68, still with his hand on his arm after receiving the vaccine. “There is some politics, some pandemic, something about what it’s like to live here in Ecatepec,” says Armando Hernández, 72.
Under the white awning where the vaccines are administered it seems another universe. In the blink of an eye, ten teams of two people each deliver the injections at full speed. The blue coolers have 40 doses that come and go to be refilled, while National Guard agents guard the container where the rest of the vials are. “I’ve been waiting for it for a long time, but alas! It hurt when I felt the needle, ”says Elisa Jiménez, 76. “It didn’t hurt at all!” Her husband Lucio Alba, 79, smiles.
After the prick, those vaccinated had to wait 30 minutes to see if they developed side effects such as nausea, headache or chills. “It is very important that they do not lower their guard, that they wear face masks, that they continue to keep a healthy distance,” proclaims Dr. Luis Soto as he walks by the chairs where those over 60 years of age wait. Soto says that what worries people most is not when they will receive the second dose or the contraindications, but whether they can continue taking their medications, eat what they are used to and get on with their lives. Some like Ángel López, 97, arrived with their oxygen tank; many like Martha Polo, 77, are hypertensive and diabetic, others like Guadalupe Aguilera, 66, are fighting cancer.
As the vaccines flow, the rivers of people begin to recede. By noon, the Centro Cultural y Deportivo de Las Américas, another vaccination center less than two kilometers away, has already picked up pace and serves practically everyone without the need to wait. Word spread, and those who lined up at the Multisport rushed off to try their luck. “The other center was impossible, but it was important to get the vaccine,” says Leobardo Navarro, 88. “People here go out a lot with or without a pandemic.”
Last May, a group of relatives broke into the Hospital de Las Américas, in the same area, after receiving the news that their loved ones had passed away. Desperate because they could not see them, the relatives attacked doctors and nurses, reached the backyard of the sanatorium and opened, one after another, 25 body bags to search for them. The Americas starred in one of the toughest moments of the pandemic that is remembered in the country, today it concentrates most of the first doses that arrived in Ecatepec.
“Who knows, just as I live another 20 years”, jokes Isabel Tenorio, who will be 100 years old in two weeks. His son died of covid-19, but he wants to “continue fighting” and cook, knit and see his family without fear of being infected, although that is still missing. It is the same as his four children, fourteen grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren and his great-great-granddaughter expect; about 3,600 people scheduled to be vaccinated this Tuesday in the three headquarters of the Las Américas subdivision, and more than 220,000 adults over 60 years of age throughout Ecatepec.
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