Santiago, Feb 3 (efe-epa).- Chile on Wednesday kicked off a mass inoculation campaign after receiving a shipment of nearly 4 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Chinese biopharmaceutical company Sinovac Biotech.
The government’s plan is to vaccinate the country’s at-risk population – nearly 5 million people – between February and March and the rest of the population during the first half of the year.
“Chile has never faced a challenge like this before. The most we’d managed to vaccinate (before) was 8 million people. Now we’re proposing to practically double that target,” President Sebastian Piñera said.
The drive will initially focus on the at-risk population, including health care workers, the elderly, the chronically ill and essential workers. It will be carried out in stages, with those 90 years and older to be vaccinated first and specific days assigned to each age range.
Once the at-risk population has been inoculated, attention will shift to the approximately 15 million people who are 18 and older, excluding groups such as pregnant women, Piñera said.
The government has installed more than 1,400 vaccination points nationwide, including on the remote Easter Island. The biggest of these is Estadio Bicentenario de La Florida in Santiago’s southeastern outskirts, where around 100 pods have been set up with the goal of inoculating more than 3,000 people daily.
“I have a lot of confidence (in the vaccine). I’m going to live until I’m 100, even if it’s sitting down. I didn’t even feel the prick,” Leonila, who is over the age of 90, said while exiting the stadium.
Besides Sinovac’s CoronvaVac product, vaccines developed by Pfizer/BioNTech and AstraZeneca/University of Oxford also will be administered at the centers.
Chile has inked deals for more than 35 million vaccines: 10 million from Pfizer-BioNTech, 10 million from Sinovac and the rest from AstraZeneca, Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) and the United Nations-led Covax equitable vaccine supply program.
Piñera, who is expected to be vaccinated next week, traveled to the southern town of Futrono to witness the inoculation of a 93-year-old woman.
“The start of this mass vaccination (drive) is something very important, but it doesn’t mean the pandemic is over. As we’ve said so many times, the pandemic will still be with us and we have to learn to live with it safely,” the president said.
With more than 730,000 confirmed cases and over 18,500 deaths attributed to Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic last March, Chile cleared the first peak of the virus between June and July and currently is mired in a second Covid-19 wave, especially in southern regions where more than 50 localities currently are under lockdown.
Santiago – home to 7 million people – was under strict coronavirus restrictions for months, and in many capital neighborhoods stay-at-home orders and restrictions on non-essential businesses are still in place.
Chile began vaccinating workers at intensive care units on Dec. 24, when the first shipment of the two-dose Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine arrived.
To date, more than 10,352 people have received both doses. EFE-EPA