Latin America begins to give the green light to the vaccine with immunity still a long way off

Chile and Ecuador have approved the use of the Pfizer vaccine in the last few hours
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REUTERS/DADO RUVIC  -   Chile and Ecuador have approved the use of the Pfizer vaccine in the last few hours

Latin America is still far from injecting the first vaccines against covid-19 but this week Chile, Mexico, Ecuador, Panama and Costa Rica cleared the way by giving the green light to the Pfizer vaccine and BioNTech.

While efforts to obtain the vaccine, which the United States and Canada began to supply this week, are accelerating, America continues to be mired in a daily tragedy, with almost 31 million positives from covid and 786,000 accumulated deaths, the World Organization of Health (WHO).

The alerts are looming over Canada, Panama, Brazil, Colombia and Belize, with the curve on the rise, warned the director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Carissa Etienne. The United States continues on an uncontrolled path of infections with the fatal mark of having exceeded the 300,000 deadline.

Worldwide, the positives for covid-19 amounted to 71.9 million today, after almost half a million new cases were reported and the deceased remain at 1.6 million, 8,400 in the past day.

Closer to immunity

Chile and Ecuador approved today the use of the Pfizer vaccine, thus becoming the only two in South America to admit it to stop the virus. In this way, they join the decisions of Mexico, Costa Rica and Panama that have already authorized the vaccination plan.

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AP/ESTEBAN FELIX - A doctor in front of the Chilean Institute of Public Health in Santiago, Chile

In addition, Latin American countries continue to close agreements with pharmaceutical companies, despite the competitive market. The situation in the United States is different, which boasted this Wednesday of its prominent stocks, which would even allow it to share its “surpluses” with its “allies” in the world.

“Right now we have 900 million doses of the vaccine contracted to deliver to us, and we have options that increase that to a total of 3 billion doses,” US Health Secretary Alex Azar said today in a news conference.

“We believe that, in fact, we will have surpluses in our vaccine supply, and that is why the president (Donald Trump) signed a decree committing to take those surpluses, of vaccines and manufacturing capacity” and use them “for the benefit of the world community. Azar added.

But Trump’s generosity contrasts with the suspicion he showed when signing another executive order that prevents domestically produced vaccines from being used abroad and has caused concern in Canada about the possibility of the drug being withheld in the neighboring country. .

Canada has received around 30,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine in the last hours, which was approved for use in the middle of last week, and expects to receive a total of 249,000 doses of the serum before the end of December. In addition, it continues its negotiations with Moderna to secure more doses of its vaccine, which it hopes to approve next week.

Multilateralism, the hope of Latin America

Faced with the images of the first injections in the north of the continent, Latin America accelerates agreements with pharmaceutical companies and relies on multilateral organizations to ensure access to the antidote as soon as possible.

One of those impulses is being given by PAHO, the WHO regional office, which stated this Wednesday that it is in dialogue with Moderna and Pfizer to guarantee universal access to the vaccine in the American continent.

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REUTERS/VICENTE GAIBOR - People wearing masks walk on a street in Guayaquil, Ecuador

“We already have two producers that have signed agreements to offer a quantity of vaccines for 2021 and we have two producers in the negotiation process,” said the agency’s deputy director, Jarbas Barbosa at the last press conference of the year.

In addition, at least 27 American countries have signed agreements with COVAX – the global platform for vaccine research – to acquire doses from pharmaceutical companies, while another nine will receive it as a donation due to their financial conditions, although it is not yet known when.

These agreements represent an important achievement considering that almost a quarter of the world’s population will not have access to the vaccine until at least 2022, according to a study published this week in The BMJ.

The danger of the christmas festivals

Access to a vaccine has grown in importance as the disease hits the continent harder and with the Christmas festivities hot on the heels of authorities considering imposing new restrictions.

The Medical College of Peru – a country with 987,675 detected cases and 36,817 deaths – announced that it is evaluating asking the Government for a new quarantine to try to avoid a rebound in the epidemic during the end of the year holidays.

On the other hand, the Government of the Dominican Republic will tighten restrictions after an increase in cases and Rio de Janeiro definitively canceled its traditional “Reveillon” party due to the outbreak of the pandemic.

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PHOTO/AFP - COVID-19 tests in the district of San Miguelito, in Panama City

In Colombia, where pressure is mounting on the UCIS, the Colombian president, Iván Duque, ruled out a new mandatory general quarantine, but medical associations warned that it is not always possible to appeal to the individual care of citizens.

In Bogotá, which with 411,689 infections is the region most affected by the pandemic in Colombia, the Mayor’s Office ordered on Tuesday the suspension until January 15, 2021 of medium or high complexity surgical procedures that are not urgent, as well as those of intermediate complexity requiring hospitalization.

On the other hand, the president of Uruguay, Luis Lacalle Pou, summoned his entire cabinet to discuss with his ministers the measures that he will announce in the next few hours with a view to reducing the cases, which have soared in recent weeks and which already support the theory of a “first wave” in the country.