Only two weeks ago, medical professionals said it would be almost impossible for Guillermo Lasso to fulfill his presidential campaign promise to vaccinate nine million Ecuadorians within 100 days. Almost overnight that has changed.
“Since last Wednesday and Thursday, we’ve received word that large shipments of Covid-19 vaccine shipments are on the way and that others are scheduled,” says Milton Cueva, private hospital consultant and former deputy health minister. “This is excellent news for the country and means we should be able to return to most of our pre-pandemic routines in September and October.”
On Saturday, 700,000 doses of the Chinese Sinovac vaccine arrived in Quito and the Ministry of Public Health said it has commitments for another three million by the third week in June. In social media comments, Health Minister Ximena Garzón said she is confident that the flow of doses will continue until all eligible Ecuadorians are vaccinated. “The situation with availability has changed in recent days and this will help provide the doses we need to meet our goal.”
Garzón said the incoming vaccines would be Pfizer, Sputnik V, Johnson & Johnson, Sinovac and possibly others. “We are in negotiation with other pharmaceutical companies and may have information to share about this soon,” she said.
According to Cueva, the change of fortunes is the result of several factors. “First, the health situation in several countries experiencing high death rates, such as India, has improved since the beginning of last week. Second, there is now a rapid decline in demand for vaccines in Europe and North America since the majority of the population has been inoculated,” he said. “I see this situation continuing and more doses being shipped to poorer countries like Ecuador in the coming weeks and months.”
The government plans to provide full details of its vaccination program today but has already released a schedule by age groups and locations of vaccination centers.
Those over the age of 65 who have not been vaccinated, will receive first doses from June 1 to June 15. Those 50 to 64 will be vaccinated June 15 to July 15, and those 16 to 49, July 15 to August 30. Some second doses will be administered in early September.
According to the health ministry, 1.5 million Ecuadorians have already received their first vaccine dose while 600,000 are fully vaccinated, as of Sunday, May 30.
Among other details of the vaccination program that have been released, the health ministry says it will have 4,217 vaccination sites, 317 of them election voting stations in rural areas. Depending on demand and “work flow” more voting stations may be added, the ministry says. “We will put emphasis on reaching people in rural sectors outside of cities, especially those with mobility and transportation limitations,” Garzón said. “For those unable to come to a vaccination center, we will have hundreds of health workers going to private homes to give the inoculations.”
The ministry is using the voter registration files of the National Elections Council as well as those of the Civil Registry to compile lists of those who will be contacted for vaccines. Even those not on those lists are eligible, says Garzón. “Everyone living in the country who wants vaccines can receive them, no matter their legal status.”
The health ministry says websites listing vaccine locations and offering other information were being tested over the weekend and should be operational by Tuesday, June 1. Among the sites are https://lugarvacunacion.cne.gob.ec and registrovacunacion.cne.gob.ec