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Health Minister Fernando Ruiz (Left), President Duque Explain Covid-19 Vaccination Rollout Health Minister Fernando Ruiz (Left), President Duque Explain Covid-19 Vaccination Rollout Source: Presidencia de Colombia

Colombia Confirms 40 Million Covid-19 Vaccine Doses, Unveils Five-Stage Vaccination Plan Starting February

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Colombia President Ivan Duque announced last night (December 18) in a nationally televised address that Colombia now has guaranteed supplies of 40 million Covid-19 vaccine doses in deals with Pfizer, AstraZeneca and the Covax multinational consortium.

As a result, “in the first weeks of 2021 we are advancing the process of mass vaccination,” Duque revealed.

“The agreement with the pharmaceutical company Pfizer for the acquisition of 10 million doses has been closed. The agreement with the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca for the acquisition of 10 million doses has also been closed. And we have also closed our agreement through the Covax platform, to acquire 20 million doses.

“This initially gives us 40 million doses, to make available in our country a vaccine dispersal process that provides broad coverage in the Colombian population,” he added.

The complete plan includes vaccination prioritization of vulnerable populations including health-care workers and people over 60 years old. It also includes a logistics plan, criteria developed by a technical committee and cold-vaccine chains-of-custody all the way through the supply chain.

Finally, President Duque warned that, even with the vaccinations starting in early 2021, "we must bear in mind that this does not mean that the pandemic is gone."

Health Ministry’s Five-Stage Plan

During the same broadcast, Health Minister Fernando Ruiz Gómez explained the free-vaccination rollout scheme for 20 million people here (two doses per person).

The government signed the contract with AstraZeneca on December 16 for 10 million doses, and on December 17 with Pfizer, likewise for 10 million doses, he said.

In addition, since October 30, the multilateral agreement with the Covax mechanism was signed for 20 million doses, for a total of 40 million that will arrive in Colombia during 2021.

“We will be doing the entire [vaccination] enlistment process during January,” Minister Ruiz explained.

“We will be starting mass vaccination in February and if, as in other countries, we have access to trial vaccines, we will also be starting trial vaccination processes in January,” he added.

The first-phase rollout aims to “reduce mortality and the incidence of severe cases of Covid-19, as well as to protect health workers; while the second phase is to reduce the contagion to generate herd immunity,” he said.

Colombia’s total population in 2021 is projected at 51 million inhabitants. “In order to generate herd immunity, according to scientific evidence, it is necessary to vaccinate 70% of the population, which is equivalent to 35.7 million Colombians,” he said.

Since data gathering started in February, a cumulative total of 1.5 million Colombians have contracted Covid-19, he said.

Those previously infected people “will not be included in the initial phase of the vaccination program. In other words, the total number of people to be vaccinated to promote herd immunity is 34.2 million, a figure that may change according to the evolution of the pandemic,” according to the Ministry.

“At this moment, with the vaccines already acquired, which represent [vaccinations for] 20 million people, we can say that we have already acquired 58.4% of the vaccines for phase 1 and the beginning of phase 2,” Ruiz said.

As a result, the Colombian government “is already in negotiations to complete the number needed to vaccinate the more than 34 million people,” according to the Ministry.

Minors 16 years and younger “will not be subject to immunization in the first instance until there is scientific evidence that guarantees safety in that population,” according to the Ministry.

Those with pre-existing health problems (11 million Colombians) including hypertensive diseases, diabetes, kidney failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, HIV, cancer , tuberculosis, hepatitis-C and obesity will be in the first-priority vaccination group .

In addition, 7.6 million people aged 60 and over, plus 1.2 million health workers, are also in the first-priority group for vaccination.

Here is the full five-phase vaccination schedule:

Phase 1:

—Stage 1 (1.69 million people): First-line health and support workers, as well as those over 80, who represent the greatest risk.

—Stage 2 (7. million people): populations from 60 to 79 years old and second- and third-line health workers.

—Stage 3 (2.9 million people): populations aged 16 to 59 with comorbidities, as well as elementary and high school teachers.

Phase 2

—Stage 4 (4.9 million people): institutional caregivers, populations in occupations with higher-risk situations.

—Stage 5 (17.5 million people): populations between 16 and 59 years and free of comorbidities.

The vaccinations requiring special cold-storage will be shipped to Colombia via air to a special Ministry warehouse. From there, the vaccines will be shipped to 30 regional and district warehouses and then to hospitals, clinics and other vaccination points, Ruiz said.

“In the case of vaccines that require deep freezing, this is a new challenge for the world; however, Colombia has already been working on the requirements for two months with the company Pfizer,” according to the Ministry.

“We are in continuous contact with the laboratories to establish how we can set up the process. At first it seemed very complex, but we already have the design from the engineering and medical part as well,” Ruiz revealed.

Colombia will have Pfizer vaccines made via direct purchase, as well as Moderna vaccines through the Covax mechanism, according to the Ministry.

For the ultra-cold requirements of the Pfizer vaccine, “we are in the process of acquiring 44 freezers that will be available in January” Ruiz said.

“We will have databases that will include the identification of people according to their health conditions, and we will have a mechanism so that they can register if necessary if they meet the criteria of over 60 years or with comorbidity,” Ruiz said.

Each person will be given a specific time and date for vaccination at clinics and hospitals “where the vaccination procedure will be explained, an informed consent will be issued since vaccination is voluntary, and a card will be delivered with date for the second dose,” according to the Ministry.

Colombia already has installed capacity of 7,920 vaccinators, capable of applying 277,200 vaccines per day.

“This allows us to have the peace of mind that there is sufficient capacity to carry out vaccination at the national level,” the Minister added.

Read 646 times Last modified on Last modified on December 20 2020

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U.S. native Roberto Peckham, who founded Medellin Herald in 2015, has been residing in metro Medellin since 2005 and has traveled regularly and extensively throughout Colombia since 1981.

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