Colombia: All Ibero-American nations need guaranteed access to vaccines

By Jaime Ortega Carrascal

Bogota, Apr 20 (EFE).- Colombian President Ivan Duque said on the eve of the Ibero-American Summit that all countries of that region must have guaranteed access to Covid-19 vaccines.

Among the issues that the heads of state and government of the Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking countries of Europe and the Americas will discuss at that gathering, which is being hosted by the landlocked Iberian microstate of Andorra and will take place on Wednesday in a semi-attendance format, are the challenges the Ibero-American nations are facing in coping with the coronavirus pandemic.

In that regard, Duque said in an interview with Efe that the entire world will remain at risk unless the vaccines are distributed equitably.

Question: What does Colombia expect from the 27th Ibero-American Summit (originally scheduled for last November but postponed due to the pandemic)?

Answer: There are three important issues: sustainability in the environmental, economic and social aspects. I also want to stress that it will be an opportunity for all of us to make unequivocal calls for … equitable vaccine distribution, for measures to mitigate the effects of the pandemic and of course also for sustainable economic reactivation.

Q: Do you think that a vaccination strategy can be coordinated at this summit?

A: We’re certainly seeing unequal distribution in the world today. And why has this happened? Because of a dynamic in which countries have bought (a quantity of) vaccines that is four, five, six, seven times their population. That of course generates distortions.

We also see that there are still logistical complexities to overcome and we have to ensure that distribution is equitable around the world on the very clear basis that no one will be safe until we’re all safe.

This means the multilateral Covax strategy has to be strengthened. We all have to do more to make it an increasingly dynamic entity. Colombia is co-chair on the Covax Shareholders’ Council and I think we need to send a message at the summit that there are Latin American and Ibero-American countries that are lagging behind and that we need to guarantee their access (to the vaccines) as well.

Q: In the particular case of Colombia, will the vaccination target set for this year be achieved?

A: Our goal is to reach 35 million Colombians (vaccinated) this year. We’ve always achieved our goals ahead of schedule. We said we were going to start our vaccination plan on Feb. 20; we started it on Feb. 17. We achieved our goal of 1 million (vaccinated) before the 30th. Then we quickly got to 2 million, then 3 million 10 days later. And now we’re coming upon 4 million vaccinated.

Q: Could the inequitable distribution of vaccines and supply problems at some laboratories affect that plan?

A: These have always been variables, and that can happen to any country in the world. Countries that are vaccine buyers are always subject to compliance with logistical conditions, but we’ve been carrying out our plan because we’ve also diversified our purchases, because we’ve administered the vaccines responsibly, because we’ve been present throughout the national territory. And we’re pursuing our goal of having 35 million Colombians vaccinated in 2021. EFE


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