BOGOTA, (Reuters) – Colombia has entered into deals with pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and AstraZeneca to provide 20 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, President Ivan Duque said yesterday.
The Andes nation topped 40,000 coronavirus deaths and witnessed a new record for confirmed cases daily, reaching 13,277 on Friday. Nearly 1.5 million confirmed cases.
“We have closed a deal with pharmaceutical company Pfizer for the procurement of 10 million doses. We have also closed a deal with AstraZeneca for the acquisition of 10 million doses, ”Duque said on his nightly television broadcast. The 10 million doses each from Pfizer and AstraZeneca and 20 million doses, received through the COVAX mechanism will contain two doses for 20 million people, pending approval by the national health regulator, Duque added.
“In the first weeks of 2021 we will be carrying out mass vaccination,” he said.
Colombia will initially focus on the vaccination of healthcare workers, those over 60 and those with pre-existing conditions such as hypertension, HIV and diabetes. It will provide free vaccination under its generous national vaccination plan.
The initial group that will be vaccinated includes just over 11 million people, Health Minister Fernando Ruiz said on the program. Recipients have already been identified by name using health data, he added.
About 1.2 million of the first group are healthcare workers, including clinic personnel as cleaners, Ruiz said. Many vaccinations in 2021 will occur in June, July and August.
The country will continue to negotiate with companies to acquire more doses, Duque said.
Colombian authorities have repeatedly said that vaccines like Pfizer’s, which require higher freezing, will present logistical challenges, but prepare cold storage.
The AstraZeneca vaccine, developed with the University of Oxford, was once seen as the frontrunner in the development of a coronavirus vaccine, but Pfizer has overtaken, whose shots have been introduced in Britain and the United States this month.