Mexico says 14 townships refuse coronavirus vaccines

A health worker inoculates a man with the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, during a vaccination drive for persons over 60-years-old, at the University Olympic Stadium in Mexico City, Monday, April 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
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MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexican health authorities said Friday that 14 of the country’s roughly 2,600 townships have refused to allow vaccination teams to administer anti-coronavirus doses there, and a convoy transporting vaccines came under an armed attack in another part of the country.

The army said gunmen opened fire on soldiers escorting a shipment of vaccines in the western state of Michoacan. Nobody was injured and the convoy delivered the vaccines. But when soldiers returned to scene, gunmen again opened fire. One man was arrested and five assault rifles were seized.

Also Friday, Assistant Health Secretary Hugo López-Gatell said the townships were concentrated largely in the heavily Indigenous southern states of Chiapas and Oaxaca.

He did not give specific reasons why those communities did not want to be vaccinated, citing only “cultural and perhaps religious beliefs.”

López-Gatell said the decision to refuse vaccines had been made by town councils, adding “we respect that decision.” He said authorities are trying to set up a scheme in which people who wanted vaccines could get them in a neighboring township.

Indigenous municipalities in southern Mexico have some degree of autonomy, and some are governed by traditional "use and custom" schemes without political parties or formal elections.

Some Chiapas townships dominated by the Zapatista rebels have rejected other government programs, but it was unclear whether they were among those refusing vaccines.

Local media in Chiapas reported some communities distrusted the vaccines, or did not think there were enough local cases to justify it.

Mexico is currently vaccinating people over 60, as well as some health care workers and teachers. Mexico has administered almost 13.5 million doses to date, still a small amount for a country of 126 million.

Mexico has suffered 211,693 test-confirmed deaths, but because the country does so little testing, authorities acknowledge the real toll is over 330,000.