Omicron, new restrictions prompt surge in vaccine demand as government pushes toward 85% goal
The Ministry of Health said Monday that demand for Covid-19 vaccines in the last seven days has been the highest since the emergence of the Delta variant in early 2020. “The large numbers are a result of fear of the new Omicron variant and the entry restrictions placed on public locations and events,” according to Health Minister Ximena Garzón. “With the new urgency, I believe we will achieve our goal of vaccinating 85 percent of the population by the end of January.”
In a separate statement Monday afternoon, the Health Ministry said that community spread of the Omicron variant has begun in Ecuador. “Although we have confirmed only 24 cases and are testing for another 27, we must acknowledge that the variant is most likely widespread in the country,” the Ministry said. “If our experience is similar to that of other countries, cases will grow very rapidly in the coming weeks but we are encouraged by the news that most of them will be mild or asymptomatic. Despite this fact, we expect increased pressure our health care resources.”
In an interview on a Quito television station, Garzón said she was pleased with the acceptance of the vaccine. “There has been a segment of the population that was reluctant to take the vaccine but now we are seeing this reluctance break down. These people are looking around and seeing that their friends and family who are vaccinated have no negative effects and now they are willing to take the shots themselves,” she said.
Participating in the same interview, a Quito couple agreed with Garzón. “We were worried last year that the vaccines were experimental and didn’t want to take it,” said Édgar Terán. “Now, it has been a year since our parents and neighbors have been vaccinated and we know they are safe. We took our first shots on Saturday and feel fine.”
Garzón said the Health Ministry has opened new vaccination centers across the country and will open more as the demand grows. “We have the locations and we have the doses and encourage those who are unvaccinated, or who have received only one dose and need another, to come in to protect themselves and their families.”
According to Health Ministry data, about 80 percent of the population over five years of age has been fully vaccinated.