The Ministry of Health said Tuesday that it plans to vaccinate 65 percent of Ecuador’s population against Covid-19 in the first half of 2021, with the remainder to be vaccinated in the second half of the year. The vaccinations will be administered first to health and emergency service workers and to groups considered the most vulnerable to the effects of the virus.
Deputy Health Minister Xavier Solórrzano says the government is in discussions with several vaccine makers and hopes to make a decision about purchases in January or February 2021. “Data from the vaccine trials is starting to be released and we are reviewing it as it emerges,” he says, adding that the timing of inoculations depends on the data, production and shipping schedules.
“The first phase of our response will involve the purchase of 18 million doses of the vaccine at a cost of about $200 million and we plan to administer the first doses within 21 to 28 days of receipt,” he said. “The vaccine requires two doses to be effective.”
Negotiations with pharmaceutical companies, including AstraZeneca, Moderna, Pfizer and BioNTech, are ongoing, Solórrzano says, and pricing details remain to be determined. “We remain hopeful that prices will be negotiated through the Covax global alliance but we are keeping all options open to make sure we receive and administer the vaccine as soon as possible.”
Under what he calls the “best case scenario,” Solórrzano believes vaccines will arrive in late March and April and be ready for distribution.
Improving Covid-19 outlook in Ecuador
Although Covid-19 cases are surging in Europe and North America, Health Minister Juan Carlos Zevallos said Saturday that conditions are improving in Ecuador.
“In recent weeks we have seen an 8 to 10 percent decrease in the total number of cases despite the fact that we are giving 25 percent more tests,” he says. “More important, we are seeing a decline in hospitalizations and deaths.”
Zevallos cautions that events in Europe and U.S. are a reminder that the virus “has a mind of its own” and all safeguards against it must be maintained. “Biosecurity measures cannot be relaxed until we build immunity barriers, which cannot come until we vaccinate a majority of the population. At the moment, however, we can report that the news in Ecuador is good.”
The health ministry says that Quito and Pichincha Province continue to lead the country in total cases, recording more 36 percent of the total. Other cities with high case counts are Guayaquil, Cuenca, Loja, Santo Domingo, Ambato, Portoviejo, Machala, Ibarra and Rumiñahui.
In Cuenca, the ministry reports that the number of Covid hospitalizations has dropped by 40 percent since September and that intensive care bed occupancy in all public and private hospitals is below 60 percent.
In total, Ecuador has confirmed 180,600 Covid infections with 13,000 deaths since February.