QUITO, Dec 16 (Reuters) - Ecuador plans to vaccinate some 9 million people against COVID-19 between March and September by partnering with private sector health providers to distribute doses from various vaccine manufacturers, the health minister said on Wednesday.
The government of the Andean nation has set aside $200 million to purchase vaccines from seven companies, and will focus the vaccination program almost entirely on the adult population, Juan Carlos Zevallos said.
“There is a coalition that seeks to integrate various sectors (public and private) so that the purchase, distribution and the vaccination itself can be carried out in an agile and adequate way,” he said in an interview.
Mass vaccination will begin in March, but the government hopes in January to have the first 50,000 doses of the vaccine from Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE for inoculating senior citizens in shelters and medical personnel working in hospitals that treat COVID-19 patients.
That would be enough to vaccinate 25,000 people with the two-dose vaccine.
Ecuador expects to have about 400 distribution centers, including primary care centers in rural areas, and 10,000 vaccination points such as pharmacies, universities and even companies whose facilities include medical offices.
Ecuador, which has a population of 17.6 million, will carry out the vaccinations in phases that will depend on supply deals negotiated with the manufacturers.
“I think there will be enough. I am confident that more companies will have the approvals and we will see more vaccine supplies in the summer,” added Zevallos.
Ecuador’s health authorities approved the use of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine following its emergency use authorization (EUA)in the United States last week, Zevallos said. It is prepared to do the same with a similar vaccine from Moderna Inc vaccine when it receives an EUA, he said.
Ecuador also forms part of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) COVAX vaccine initiative intended to oversee equitable access to the protection against COVID-19.
The country has more than 200,000 total coronavirus infections and more than 9,300 confirmed deaths, according to official data.
Ecuador is in negotiations with dry ice manufacturers in the country to guarantee the necessary cold storage required by the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, Zevallos added. (Reporting by Alexandra Valencia; Writing by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Bill Berkrot)