QCOLOMBIA – Colombia advanced the start of the immunization campaign against the coronavirus to February 17, three days ahead of schedule, after receiving the first batch of 50,000 vaccines on Monday.
“Today is a very special day for our country (…) the vaccination process will begin the day after tomorrow,” announced President Iván Duque on his daily television program Monday night.
The shipment, with the doses Pfizer / BioNTech, arrived at Bogotá’s El Dorado international airport (BOG).
With this shipment, the country hopes to launch its vaccination program that, in the first month, will reach more than “one million Colombians,” according to President Duque. In the following weeks, 1.6 million vaccines will be distributed according to the official schedule that was to have started on February 20.
The first to get vaccinated on Wednesday will be health sector workers in the Caribbean municipalities of Sincelejo and Montería, in northwestern Colombia. On Thursday the main cities such as Bogotá, Medellín and Cali will be added. Later, the rest of the country on a schedule that ends on February 23.
The government hopes to distribute the first batch of vaccines “equitably” in all the country’s departments (states/provinces), according to the number of inhabitants and among the most vulnerable people.
The distribution will be made “not by urban areas, not by capitals, but by the whole country,” emphasized the Minister of Health, Fernando Ruiz.
The plan drawn up by the government places people over 80 years of age and those working in the health sector, starting with doctors and nurses, as the priority group.
“Vaccination (is) a hope, a joy, a satisfaction after so much suffering,” said Verónica Machado, a nurse at the Sincelejo hospital, the first person to be immunized in the country, according to Duque.
The president proposed to vaccinate 35.7 million people this year thanks to the confidential agreements he signed with the pharmaceutical companies Pfizer, SinoVac, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, as well as his link to the Covax multilateral mechanism, which guarantees rapid and equitable access to vaccines in the world.
The number of potential beneficiaries is equivalent to 70% of the total population of 50 million people, with which Colombia would achieve herd immunity against the coronavirus.
Since the detection of the first case, on March 6, 2020, the country has registered, as of February 15, 2,198,549 infections and 57,786 deaths from covid-19.
These figures place Colombia second to Brazil in South America, and fourth in Latin America and the Caribbean in terms of the number of affected and deceased in relation to its number of inhabitants.