How close to a vaccine are Latin American nations?

. Dec 20, 2020
vaccine are Latin American nations People in Cusco, Peru. Photo: Lidiya Ribakova/Shutterstock

Puerto Rican respiratory therapist Yahaira Alicea became one of the first people in Latin America and the Caribbean to get a vaccine against Covid-19, months after being aboard a cruise ship to treat an Italian couple, the first two confirmed cases on the island back in March. 

Ms. Alicea’s vaccination signaled the start of the vaccination season in Latin America. In Puerto Rico, an unincorporated territory of the U.S., planes arrived carrying more than 16,500 vaccines from pharmaceutical company Pfizer, to be distributed in at least 65 Puerto Rican hospitals. 

Governor Wanda Vázquez expects to immunize 70 percent of the island between now and mid-2021.

Across the region, the Covid-19 caused over 14.3 million confirmed cases and 477,630 deaths. However, while the virus spared no-one in Latin America, the same cannot be said for the region’s vaccination plans. While regulatory agencies in Mexico and Chile have already approved the Pfizer vaccine, Brazil and Peru are still far from deciding on definitive national immunization plans. 

The Brazilian Report has taken a look around Latin America, charting where each country stands in the process of vaccinating their populations.

 </p> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>Argentina</h2> <p><a href="">Gabriela Fillón</a>, a pediatrician from Santa Fé, became the first Argentinian to officially receive the vaccine. However, she received immunization from the British government, being a resident of London. Back in her homeland, the vaccination situation is less clear. </p> <p>On December 14, President Alberto Fernández said the country will receive 10 million doses of Russian vaccine Sputnik V in December, while representatives of Argentina&#8217;s health regulators are in Russia to speed up the approval process. According to newspaper <em>Clarín</em>, vaccines will arrive on <a href="">December 23</a>. However, the Health Ministry said in a statement that there have been problems with transport logistics and new arrival estimates have yet to be updated. </p> <p>In the meantime, the deal Argentina has with Pfizer/BioNTech (to receive 750,000 doses) is in jeopardy: on Tuesday, Health Minister Ginés González García said the pharmaceutical company&#8217;s conditions are <a href="">“somewhat unacceptable,”</a><strong> </strong>due to legal problems. </p> <ul><li><strong>Possible vaccine arrival date: </strong>December 23</li></ul> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>Chile, Peru, and Ecuador&nbsp;</h2> <p>Chile became the first country in South America to approve the Pfizer vaccine. In Santiago, the decision was approved unanimously, with the blessings of a group of experts from the Institute of Public Health (ISP), <strong>Chile</strong>’s regulatory agency. The Chilean government has a deal to receive 5 million doses from Pfizer (scheduled to arrive on Sunday) and another 5 million from Chinese laboratory Sinovac, expected to arrive by January 15.&nbsp;</p> <ul><li><strong>Possible vaccine arrival date: </strong>December and<strong> </strong>January 15</li></ul> <p>The <strong>Ecuadorian </strong>Government approved the Pfizer vaccine and is awaiting 50,000 doses in January, according to Health Minister Juan Carlos Zevallos. Ecuadorian authorities expect to immunize up to 9 million people in 2021, more than 50 percent of the population.</p> <ul><li><strong>Possible vaccine arrival date: </strong>January 2021</li></ul> <p>In <strong>Peru </strong>— which has <a href="">the world’s highest per capita Covid-19 death rate</a> — the government of interim President Francisco Sagasti has temporarily suspended clinical trials of a vaccine produced by Chinese lab Sinopharm after a study volunteer presented neurological problems. According to Health Minister Pillar Mazetti, a new meeting to discuss this situation will take place on December 17. During the month, a deal with Pfizer and AstraZeneca was signed, with further discussions about the date and numbers of doses expected in January.&nbsp;</p> <ul><li><strong>Possible vaccine arrival date: </strong>None </li></ul> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>Mexico&nbsp;</h2> <p>Mexico became the very first country in Latin America to approve a Covid-19 vaccine, also plumping from the immunizer developed by Pfizer. The decision came on December 11. According to Vice-Health Minister Hugo Lopez-Gatell, the country agreed to buy 34.4 million doses, with the first batch of 125,000 set to arrive in the third week of December, aiming at the immunization of health professionals. The Mexican National Council of Science and Technology (Conacyt) also announced this December 16 that the vaccine will be produced nationally by state-owned lab Birmex, responsible for developing influenza vaccines.</p> <ul><li><strong>Possible vaccine arrival date: </strong>December 2020</li></ul> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>Central America</h2> <p>Approval for a vaccine in <strong>Costa Rica</strong> took place on December 13, with the Health Ministry in San José basing its decision on the U.S Food and Drug Administration&#8217;s own measures. As one of few countries in the region to have controlled the pandemic reasonably well, Costa Rica agreed to receive three million doses from Pfizer, one million from AstraZeneca-Oxford, and two million more from the United Nations-backed COVAX Facility initiative. So far, <a href="">there is no precise date</a> for vaccines to arrive.&nbsp;</p> <ul><li><strong>Possible vaccine arrival date: </strong>None </li></ul> <p>In <strong>El Salvador,</strong> President Nayib Bukele said at the end of November that Covid-19 vaccines would be “free, universal and voluntary,” with health professionals, police officers, and soldiers (<a href="">who were sent to neighboring countries in aid missions during a recent hurricane crisis</a>) representing the priority group. However, there is no deadline for the vaccines to arrive.&nbsp;</p> <ul><li><strong>Possible vaccine arrival date: </strong>None </li></ul> <p>A similar situation is seen in <strong>Nicaragua</strong>, albeit for different reasons. With one of the most <a href="">coronavirus-denying administrations</a> in the region, the country lagged behind in its race for a vaccine. While still releasing nebulous data regarding the coronavirus pandemic, President Daniel Ortega’s administration announced that USD 107 million will be made available to purchase shots. However, this process will not occur without the supervision of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO): the entity will guide the development of Nicaragua&#8217;s vaccination plan and ensure “that the process is carried out properly and fairly.” Two million doses are expected in Nicaragua, with no dates predicted by the government in Managua.</p> <ul><li><strong>Possible vaccine arrival date: </strong>None

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Lucas Berti

Lucas Berti covers international affairs — specialized in Latin American politics and markets. He has been published by Opera Mundi, Revista VIP, and The Intercept Brasil, among others.

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