Colombia has become this Wednesday the tenth country in Latin America to start its mass vaccination plan against covid-19. Verónica Machado, 46, head nurse at the Hospital Universitario de Sincelejo, a hot Caribbean city of less than 300,000 inhabitants near the north coast, has been the first immunized person in the Andean country, which finally has the long-awaited postcard of your first injection.
“Today begins a new chapter in what is the defeat of this pandemic. It begins with mass, safe, effective and free vaccination in the national territory, ”President Iván Duque declared during the event. “This is a process that is beginning and that must be sustained,” said the president, who has faced criticism for a general feeling of lag compared to other countries in the region. “This process has many logistical aspects, but we are all working with the purpose of carrying it out successfully,” he stressed.
The first batch of 50,000 doses of the Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine had arrived at the El Dorado airport in Bogotá on Monday, amid a paraphernalia that stirred social networks. “We hope to meet the goal of vaccinating more than one million Colombians in the first month from today,” the president declared Monday. Duke himself confirmed the arrival of a second shipment of 192,000 vaccines from the Chinese Sinovac laboratory next Saturday, and the Health Ministry hopes to receive some 100,000 weekly doses from now on to accelerate the pace of immunization.
Despite the delay in accessing vaccines, the prick of nurse Machado, 46, is the starting gun with which Colombia intends to vaccinate 35 of its 50 million inhabitants throughout this year to reach herd immunity. The plan, which starts with health workers, also prioritizes older adults and people with comorbidities in its different stages. When the immunization of some 350,000 front-line health workers is completed, 1.2 million people over the age of 80 will begin to be vaccinated.
Sincelejo and Montería, the capitals of the departments of Sucre and Córdoba, both in the north of the country, were the first to receive the doses this Wednesday, while on Thursday vaccination will begin in several of the large cities: Bogotá, Medellín, Cali , Barranquilla, Bucaramanga, Cartagena and the department of Cundinamarca, which surrounds the capital of the country. The immunizers will continue to arrive in other departmental capitals between Friday and Tuesday of next week.
The Duque government chose to combine a multilateral strategy and several bilateral ones, the details of which have only been known in detail. In addition to being part of the Covax mechanism, Colombia has reached agreements with several pharmaceutical companies. After finalizing negotiations with Moderna and Sinovac, the Executive has assured that it has the necessary doses to vaccinate 70% of Colombians, the main objective of the National Vaccination Plan.
Of those figures, 20 million doses for 10 million people correspond to Covax. Other groups of 10 million doses – for five million people – were purchased respectively from Pfizer / BioNTech, Oxford / AstraZeneca and Moderna, all vaccines that require a double injection. Another nine million doses were secured with Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen – the only one that requires a single injection – and China’s Sinovac will provide 2.5 million doses for 1,250,000 people. In total, according to government figures, Colombia has acquired 61.5 million doses that will allow 35 million 250,000 people to be vaccinated during 2021. It also signed an agreement in January to negotiate the Russian Sputnik V vaccine. Along the way, The lack of transparency – which the Government justified in the confidentiality agreements established by the pharmaceutical companies – aroused criticism and suspicion in various sectors.
The country just overcame the second wave of the pandemic in January amid the anxiety around the arrival of vaccines, a panorama that is slowly beginning to clear. Colombia has a solid vaccination record, without major adverse movements, and has one of the largest programs in the region – Colombians have the free right to 21 vaccines that protect against 26 diseases. However, vaccination faces trust problems as in other places: four out of 10 Colombians do not want to be vaccinated, according to the latest survey by the National Administrative Department of Statistics (DANE), a figure that ignited the alerts. The country accumulated up to this Tuesday more than 2.2 million confirmed cases of covid-19, it has registered 57,949 deaths and more than two million recovered patients, as well as 42,991 active cases.
Subscribe here to newsletter from EL PAÍS América and receive all the informative keys of the region’s news
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.