Ecuador health officials are crediting the high vaccination rate of high-risk population groups with bringing the Covid-19 pandemic under control. “We are intensifying out efforts to reach the unvaccinated but are very pleased with efforts to protect the elderly, the chronically ill and people who interact with the public, like health workers and teachers,” says Health Minister Ximena Garzón.
According to the Health Ministry, 96 percent of those over 65 and those with Immunocompromised conditions have been fully vaccinated while 98 percent of health workers and 93 percent of teachers have been inoculated.
What remains to be seen, the experts say, is if the low rate of infections continues. “New case are now occurring at the same rate as influenza and other respiratory illnesses so the question is if Covid in Ecuador has reached an endemic state, which could continue for a long time, or if we are experiencing a lull in the pandemic,” says Carlos Esposito, a Guayaquil infectious disease physician and university professor. “All the evidence says we are far past the worsts but we still don’t know enough about the disease to know if the epidemic is over.”
The Health Ministry says it is focusing on vaccinating students and the teachers. “By the end of December, we expect to have more than 85 percent of students and 97 percent of teachers vaccinated, which we feel will provide the protection necessary to keep the pandemic under control,” Garzón says. “Everyone, including school children, are eager to return to some level of normalcy, and we believe we are close to achieving this.”
Esposito, who is a consultant to the World Health Organization, credits the government’s vaccine efforts for bringing the pandemic under control but believes other factors have also played a role. “I disagree with those who say that natural immunity does not provide a high level of protection and I think, in Ecuador, between 30 and 40 percent of the population may have been infected. It will be a few years but eventually we will understand the rolls that infection and vaccines have played in controlling this.”
Esposito adds: “It is great to know that the vaccines are effective — and now, that they are safe — but there is still much that we don’t understand. Most of South America and Africa are doing well while rich nations in Europe are still experiencing surges. Why is this? In time we will know.”