MEXICO CITY (AP) – Hundreds of parents in Mexico have resorted to court orders to obtain coronavirus vaccines for their children after the government refused to consider vaccination for children under the age of 18.
Vaccinations for children are already running in the US and other countries, but Mexican officials have downplayed the risk for minors. This is despite the 613 deaths to date and 60,928 confirmed COVID-19 cases in people under the age of 18 in Mexico.
About 15 parents have won the injunctions and shot their children as the government urges schools to return to face-to-face classes on Monday.
Alma Franco, a lawyer in the southern state of Oaxaca, was one of the first to apply for vaccinations for her children over the constitutional complaints known in Mexico as “Amparos”. In such appeals, a judge is asked to reject, freeze, or reverse any government action that could violate the plaintiff’s rights.
Franco won the appeal and received a vaccination for their 12-year-old son, then posted a copy of the appeal on social media for others to essentially copy-paste and submit their own.
“I’m a mother and I don’t want a family to grieve because the Mexican government has failed to protect the health of the children,” said Franco, 48. She said an estimated 200 parents have followed their path to help try to get vaccines.
Local media reported that so far 15 such injunctions have been issued and 31 have been rejected.
Ingrid Nattalie, a 13-year-old middle school student in the northern town of Mexicali, across the border from Calexico, California, was also shot in what her family lawyer, Jorge Lizarraga, called “a legal triumph”.
Mexico’s Medical Health Safety Board has approved Pfizer vaccinations for use in people 12 years and older. In Mexico, however, only the government is currently able to import and administer the vaccines – around 57 million doses have been given to people over 18 to date, enough to cover 64% of adults with at least one shot.
To date, Mexico has suffered approximately 257,000 test-confirmed deaths. But because so little testing is done, official death counts suggest the real number is around 400,000.
The United States and eleven countries in Latin America have begun vaccinating adolescents aged 12-17, in part because young people are believed to play a role in the spread of the disease. However, those under 18s in Mexico were not included in the free vaccination programs.
Deputy Health Minister Hugo López-Gatell, the government’s top man on the pandemic, said: “There is a much lower risk of developing COVID under the age of 18, especially if it is severe, and the risk of dying is practically zero. “
Dr. Andreu Comas, a professor in the medical school at the Autonomous University of San Luis Potosí, said children are being hit by Mexico’s third wave of the virus, although severe cases are less common than adults.
Comas said children are “great carriers and multipliers of the disease”.
The government of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has asked parents to send their children back to school for face-to-face classes, which have been suspended for almost 1 1/2 years, as this is necessary for the intellectual and social development of the children.
Many parents agree they need to return to class, but say it could be too stressful without vaccines.
“The children have been locked up at home for a year and a half out of fear,” said Franco. “This (vaccination) gives them a certain security and certainty that they will be better when they become infected.”
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