Thousands of Ecuadorian families are taking their children to the U.S. for Covid-19 vaccines

Jul 8, 2021

After traveling to Miami for their own Covid-19 vaccines, many Ecuadorian parents are now going back with their children. “My wife and I had our shots in Florida in April and since most of the side-effects happen in the first two months, we wanted to wait and see if they were safe for our boys,” says Carlos Naranjo, a 48-year-old commercial engineer from Quito. “We had no problems and feel comfortable now taking our children so they can be protected too.”

An Ecuadorian woman gets a Johnson & Johnson vaccine at a CVS pharmacy in Miami.

According to the Quito association of travel agents, as many as 200,000 Ecuadorian adults have traveled to the U.S. for vaccines, the vast majority of them to Miami. “Most of those traveling for their shots want to get the Johnson & Johnson since it is one dose,” says Juan Avellán, association spokesman. “They don’t want to wait in Ecuador and they don’t trust Sinovac, which is what most people are getting here.”

Avellán says most parents planning vaccines trips for their children are like Naranjo and wanted to take the vaccines first themselves. “Now, people who have had the vaccines know they are safe, that all the fear talk was nonsense, and they want to have their children vaccinated.”

He says he expects as many as 100,000 Ecuadorian children under the age of 16 to travel to the U.S. for vaccines in the coming weeks. “The parents want to do this before schools starts in September,” he says

Ecuador has no current plans to vaccinate those under 16 but the health ministry says that could change in the coming months, depending on the supply of doses. In June, the Ministry of Health said that the Covid danger for children under 16 was very low. “In the few cases of infection, the symptoms are almost always mild and they pose a very low risk of spreading serious infections to adults,” the ministry said in a statement. The statement added that its appraisal holds true for the new delta variant as well.

Although the health ministry has had no official comment about the thousands of Ecuadorians traveling to the U.S. for vaccines, it has attempted to support the Chinese Sinovac vaccine against claims it is less effective than those manufactured in the U.S. and Europe. “Although Sinovac shows slightly less effectiveness against mild infection, it has been proven highly effective against severe cases that require hospitalization,” the ministry said in a statement. “We feel very confident in its ability to protect the population and help end the pandemic in Ecuador.”

Although Naranjo said his concern about Sinovac prompted his trips to Miami, he says that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was not his first choice. “I would have preferred the Pfizer since it uses the more sophisticated RNA technology but I can’t afford to wait two weeks between doses. I’m okay with Johnson & Johnson and know that it is fine for my kids. Best of all, we all get to go to Miami again.”