Expanded age eligibility, fear of new Covid-19 variants increase the demand for vaccines
Ecuadorians are once again lining up for Covid-19 vaccines, reversing a three-week decline in visits to vaccines centers in Quito, Guayaquil and Cuenca. The Ministry of Health says the increase is the result of the lower eligibility age, which is now 50, and growing fear of the more dangerous delta and lambda variants of the Covid virus.
“We are pleased to see more people coming in for their first dose and believe the trend will continue,” says Paulina Proaño, Quito district Health Ministry director. “People are beginning to understand that the pandemic is far from over and are worried about a surge in cases Ecuador as well as other countries.”
In addition to a steady of flow of younger Ecuadorians showing up for shots, Proaño says many older people who did not receive vaccines earlier are now coming to vaccination centers. “Some people who were hesitant about getting the vaccine have now been convinced by friends and family members that it is safe. They are also hearing the news about the variants that are more transmissible and more deadly.”
In addition to increased activity at vaccines centers, the government is stepping up efforts to vaccinate residents in their homes and at work. Hundreds of vaccine brigades are contacting the unvaccinated and those who did not receive their second dose. The brigades are using information on voter registration lists to make contact, either by phone or through home visits. “We want to make it easy and unintimidating for people to be vaccinated,” Minister of Health Ximena Garzón said Wednesday. “We also want people to know that the more Ecuadorians who are vaccinated, the quicker the pandemic will be over.”
The ministry is also launching a program to vaccinate people at their place of work. At larger businesses, vaccine teams will administer shots on site while arrangements are being made to bus employees of smaller businesses to special vaccination centers. Garzón says that the government’s policy is that vaccination is voluntary but added that some companies may require them to protect employees and customers.
“One of our biggest challenges is overcoming bad information being spread on social media and by word of mouth about the vaccines,” Garzón says. “This is particularly a problem among the poorly educated and those ignorant of science. We now have the proof that vaccines are safe and effective as rates of hospitalizations and deaths show dramatic declines in countries with high vacciantion rates. We hope to join those countries soon.”
Garzón added that Ecuador has enough vaccines doses on hand and committed to meet President Guillermo Lasso’s goal of vaccinating nine million adults by September.