(Adds detail on additional vaccinations, duration of roll-out)
MEXICO CITY, Dec 24 (Reuters) - Mexico on Thursday inoculated its first person against COVID-19 to kick off a fightback from a pandemic that has killed 120,000 people in the country and battered the economy, celebrating a Christmas roll-out that also began elsewhere in Latin America.
In a ceremony broadcast on national media and watched by the president, officials directed the administration of the Pfizer vaccine to 59-year-old nurse Maria Irene Ramirez, head nurse at the intensive care unit of Mexico City’s Ruben Lenero hospital.
“This is the best gift that I could have received in 2020,” said Ramirez, adding that it would give her strength to continue the “war” against the pandemic.
Afterwards, the government broadcast the vaccine being given to medical personnel in other parts of Mexico.
Pfizer’s is the first COVID-19 vaccine to reach Mexico, which has also signed deals for vaccines from other firms.
Chile received the first 10,000 doses of a 10-million order of Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine on Thursday, with inoculations of health workers due to begin immediately.
In Costa Rica, health workers administered the first doses of Pfizer vaccine to a pair of senior citizens in a home near the capital San Jose, while some 300,000 doses of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine arrived in Argentina.
“My message is that everyone should be vaccinated,” said Jorge De Ford, a 72-year-old former university professor who was one of the first two in Costa Rica to get the injection.
No COVID-19 vaccine has been approved yet for use in Brazil, Latin America’s most populous country.
In Mexico, the first Pfizer shipment arrived on Wednesday containing only 3,000 doses of the vaccine. The next one will contain 50,000 doses, with Mexico slated to receive 1.4 million units of the two-shot Pfizer vaccine by Jan. 31.
“And thus begins the road to the end of the pandemic,” Martha Delgado, a deputy foreign minister tasked with securing vaccine supplies for Mexico, said on Twitter.
The vaccine roll-out is expected to last months and will initially prioritize Mexican medical staff. A September report by Amnesty International found Mexico had lost more healthcare workers to the virus than any other country.
Mexican infections and deaths are surging, putting hospitals under immense strain, and prompting fresh lockdowns in Mexico City and its urban sprawl last week.
A Stanford University-Mexico CIDE research group study found Mexico City could breach its hospital capacity in late December and peak in late January.
Over 1.35 million cases and 120,300 coronavirus deaths have been reported in Mexico, which has the fourth-highest official death toll from COVID-19 worldwide. The government acknowledges that the real figures are likely significantly higher. (Reporting by Anthony Esposito; Additional reporting by Alvaro Murillo in San Jose Editing by Dave Graham and Alistair Bell)