Colombia plans to launch a mass vaccination campaign against the novel coronavirus in February, President Ivan Duque announced. In an interview with a local radio station, Duque said a trial vaccination run could begin between this week and the first week of January.
He also said his government has researched to obtain the “best” vaccines for the country, where more than 1.5 million people have tested positive and over 40,000 people have died from the disease.
“It was a rigorous job … and one that will begin en masse in February. We hope to also have some test vaccines … hopefully sooner. We are working on that, but I believe that this will be a process that will be very important to protect the entire population,” Duque said.
Segments of the population that will not receive the vaccine include those who have already been infected with the disease, pregnant women and children under 16 years of age, as well as citizens of other countries unofficially residing in Colombia (presumably meaning Venezuelans).
The President did not say which vaccine will be received and distributed, but it is understood that Colombia expects to receive its first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines developed by Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE in February.
The 1.7 million doses are enough to vaccinate about 850,000 people as each requires two doses. First in line for inoculations will be healthcare workers and those over 80 years old, officials said in a statement.
The Andean country, whose daily confirmed number of new coronavirus cases hit a record hit of 13,990 on Saturday, said last week it signed deals with Pfizer and AstraZeneca Plc to provide 10 million doses each of their COVID-19 vaccines.
The country, which has recorded more than 1.5 million coronavirus cases and over 40,000 deaths, will receive an additional 20 million doses through the COVAX mechanism, giving it enough vaccine to inoculate some 20 million people.
Colombia will provide COVID-19 vaccines for free under its national vaccination plan, but is also preparing rules to allow people to purchase the vaccine privately, the ministry said in a statement.
People between the ages of 60 and 79 and those with chronic health conditions that put them at higher risk of severe COVID-19 will form the second tranche of people to be vaccinated, Health Minister Fernando Ruiz said.
Members of the general population – including people in the military, teachers and those who care for others – will follow, Ruiz added.
The capital city Bogota on Monday returned to restrictions that allow just one person per household to go shopping and restrict entrance to stores and restaurants.