Ecuador Health Minister Juan Carlos Zevallos reports that the number of new Covid-19 cases has declined significantly since early September. “We are very encouraged by the numbers and expect continued improvement in the pandemic situation,” he said Thursday. “In particular, we are pleased to see a dramatic drop in the number of deaths due to Covid-19.”
Zevallos also announced that Ecuador has signed supply agreements with major pharmaceutical firms including Pfizer Inc and BioNTech to provide millions of COVID-19 vaccines, the health minister said on Wednesday, adding it is seeking talks with Chinese laboratories for more supplies.
He added that all importation of vaccines will be coordinated through the central government and private health providers and local governments will be barred from dealing directly with pharmaceutical companies. “We will conduct a review of the products as they arrive to determine their safety and authenticity and this must be coordinated through the ministry,” he said.
Although Zevallos expects the first vaccines to arrive in March 2021, he cautioned that there could be problems with the effectiveness and safety of the early vaccines. “Typically, it takes 10 years to know if a vaccine is truly effective and the process has been greatly accelerated in this case. We will monitor those who receive the early vaccines for a period of two years to determine that there are no adverse effects from the vaccines.”
He said that health workers, first responders and those in vulnerable groups will be the first to receive the vaccine.
Facing an economic downturn exacerbated by the pandemic, Ecuador has obtained funds through the Inter-American Development Bank to finance access to the COVAX vaccine, which is being led by the World Health Organization, Carlos Zevallos said.
“At this moment we do not have scientific proof, for example, that vaccine X is going to work on a specific population. That is why we are targeting all possibilities,” Zevallos told reporters. “We want an effective, safe vaccine that reaches the country on time and at a reasonable price.”
The government of President Lenin Moreno has also signed a vaccine supply deal with AstraZeneca Plc and a letter of intent to buy another 2 million doses from COVAXX, a unit of United Biomedical Inc.
And it has begun talks with Johnson & Johnson, Novavax Inc and Moderna Inc, and has notified three Chinese laboratories of its interest in starting conversations.
Ecuador has nearly 155,000 coronavirus infections and more than 8,000 deaths, according to official data.
The government also includes in the data about 4,300 people who have probably died of COVID-19.
Authorities expect the vaccines will begin arriving in 2021, with priority to be given to health professionals and workers at risk of exposure.