BOGOTA – An initial batch of 50,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by American pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and its German partner, biotechnology company BioNTech, will arrive in Colombia on Monday afternoon, President Ivan Duque said in a nationwide address.
That Andean nation has lagged behind some of its regional neighbors, including Mexico and Chile, in launching its vaccine rollout.
“I want to let you know that the first vaccine shipment from pharmaceutical company Pfizer will arrive in our country this afternoon from Belgium,” where the doses were manufactured, Duque said Monday morning.
The doses are set to arrive five days prior to the Feb. 20 start date for a mass vaccination rollout in Colombia, which has registered 2,195,039 confirmed coronavirus cases and 57,605 deaths attributed to COVID-19 since the onset of the pandemic there.
The shipment expected on Monday is the first of a delivery “of 1,650,000 (doses) that will arrive over the next three weeks, which constitute the first vaccination wave against the virus,” Duque said.
“With the arrival of the first batch of vaccines, we’re starting the definitive battle against the coronavirus,” said the president, who nevertheless urged Colombians to not let down their guard and to continue to take all recommended self-protective measures.
The goal of the government’s National Vaccination Plan is to inoculate 35.2 million people – or 70 percent of the nation’s population – this year, Duque recalled.
“That will allow us to get closer to herd immunity and be able to leave behind the fears” associated with the pandemic by 2022, Duque said.
“We’ve designed and developed this vaccination plan prudently and rigorously since the middle of last year. Accompanied by scientific experts, negotiations experts, logistics chain experts, and taking into account the special characteristics of the virus’ behavior in our country, we’ve structured a comprehensive plan that we’re executing,” he added.
Colombians are eagerly awaiting the arrival of vaccines considering that the country ranks 11th globally in confirmed cases and 12th in deaths attributed to COVID-19.
Duque’s administration has purchased 61.5 million vaccine doses from different laboratories.
Those contracts include 20 million doses it will receive through the Covax mechanism, a World Health Organization-led effort that aims to ensure that low- and middle-income countries have access to coronavirus vaccines.
The Colombian government also has negotiated the purchase of an additional 10 million doses of vaccines developed by Pfizer and the same amount from both AstraZeneca/University of Oxford and Moderna, which will serve to inoculate 5 million people apiece since two doses are required in each case.
Duque’s administration has acquired an additional nine million doses of a single-dose vaccine developed by Janssen, a unit of American health care giant Johnson & Johnson, and has purchased 2.5 million doses of Chinese biopharmaceutical company Sinovac Biotech’s two-dose vaccine.
The government also has a preliminary agreement with Russia for the eventual purchase of the two-dose Sputnik V vaccine developed by that country’s state-run Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology.