Chile’s announcement that it will deliver the fourth dose of the vaccine from February – the second country in the world that has confirmed its intention to do so after Israel – sets the standard for vaccination in Latin America, a region with high levels of protection very uneven that sees how the contagions of the omicron variant skyrocket in Europe and the United States. This trend, taking into account the development of previous waves of the pandemic, may mean an early rebound also in some areas of the region that have strong links with them.
When 117 cases of the omicron variant have been reported in Chile, the Ministry of Health announced on Thursday that it is preparing a new vaccination booster against covid-19. The process will start in mid-February, as announced by Minister Enrique Paris, and will begin with vulnerable groups such as the elderly, health professionals and chronically ill people, according to the calendar that will be informed by the portfolio. It is Chile’s strategy for the 2020 fall and winter season that begins in March, as in the entire Southern Hemisphere, given that there is evidence that immunity decreases in the sixth month.
“We have a lot of Pfizer now, also AstraZeneca and we can access Sinovac. There are studies that show that Sinovac is working very well against Ómicron, for example, so we have vaccines available ”, explained Paris, who ends his duties on March 11, when Sebastián Piñera’s Administration hands over power to Gabriel Boric. According to the first conversations between the two administrations, the president-elect intends to offer certain technical positions in the health area to continue accompanying him to control the pandemic, to give continuity to the vaccination process, for example.
Precisely this 24 marks a year since the start of the vaccination process in the South American country, which was commemorated this Friday by Piñera, who led the purchase negotiations. With more than 48 million doses already arrived, the Ministry of Health has reported that 43.36 million doses of vaccine against covid-19 have been administered in Chile for a population of about 19 million. In this way, 91.9% of the target population, over 18 years of age, has been vaccinated. In addition, 5,612,633 doses have been administered to people between the ages of three and 17. Currently, all adult people who have wanted it have their three doses on and, according to the calendar, these days they are advancing with the first dose vaccination to boys and girls between three and five years old. This week, the Bloomberg agency ranked Chile at the first place in its resilience ranking against covid-19 and as the best place in the world to be in December, given the growth of the omicron variant.
The big differences in Latin America
On the other hand, this Thursday Ecuador became the first Latin American country to decree mandatory vaccination for its entire population. The South American country has 69% of its 17.7 million inhabitants vaccinated with two doses, but its Government has appealed to the Organic Health Law that “declares the mandatory nature of immunizations against certain diseases, under the terms and conditions that the national and local epidemiological reality requires ”.
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Faced with these specific measures, omicron arrives with a very unequal protection depending on the country. According to the statistics collected by the web Our World In Data, Cuba leads together with Chile the regional statistics of total vaccination percentages, followed by Argentina and Uruguay. The Caribbean island has given a great boost to the immunization of its population in recent months with the locally manufactured vaccines Soberana 02, Abdala and Soberana Plus, approved by the Cuban regulatory agency but are still in the process to receive validation from the World Health Organization (WHO). In total, 91% of the population has been vaccinated, 74% with the complete scheme.
At the opposite extreme is Haiti, with just over 1% of its population vaccinated (only 0.62% with the full regimen). That country and Guatemala (where 35% of the population is immunized) will not reach the goal imposed by the WHO of protecting at least 40% of the population with both doses. Neither will other small Caribbean nations like Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Lucia and Grenada.
In the middle of these two extremes there are a whole series of differences and nuances between countries, but also within them between rural and urban areas. The United States, for example, despite having been the country in the region that has had the most access to vaccines —including third doses— has not been able to convince its population of the benefits of being immunized (at this time 61% of the population is fully immunized and 11% have a dose).
In addition to that country and Chile, there are other nations in the region such as Colombia, Brazil and Argentina that have already advanced their program to put the third dose. The advance of the new and contagious variant has also caused Mexico to announce this week that a reinforcement of vaccination is underway, but no tougher measures such as those seen in some European countries such as confinements or travel restrictions are being proposed at the moment. . The country has 83% of its population vaccinated with the complete scheme. The third dose has already begun to be applied to the groups most exposed to contagion and the most vulnerable.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.