Peru’s president opts for Chinese vaccine maligned by opposition

Lima, Aug 6 (EFE).- Peru’s leftist president on Friday received an initial dose of the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Chinese state-owned pharmaceutical group Sinopharm, the efficacy of which has been questioned by the opposition.

Pedro Castillo was immunized along with his wife, Lilia Paredes, at the start of a new three-day vaccine marathon in Lima, when immunization centers in the Peruvian capital will be operating uninterruptedly for 60 hours between Friday and Sunday.

The 51-year-old recently inaugurated head of state waited until after the July 28 start of his five-year term to receive the vaccine even though his age group became eligible for the shot in July.

Castillo was inoculated in a park in the densely populated Lima district of San Juan de Lurigancho, where one of the 22 vaccine centers used in the capital’s immunization drive has been installed.

Waiting for him there was his health minister, Hernando Cevallos, who has set a goal of having 60 percent of the population fully vaccinated by year’s end.

Castillo received his shot on the first day that use of Sinopharm’s Covid-19 vaccine, known as BBIBP-CorV and administered earlier this year to medical and armed forces personnel, was extended to the general population.

But the opposition slammed the president for opting for a Chinese vaccine, with right-wing lawmaker and molecular biologist Ernesto Bustamante – who says the efficacy of Sinopharm’s vaccine is unproven – demanding to know why he did not receive the Pfizer-BioNTech shot instead.

“I’ve come to get vaccinated with the Sinopharm vaccine because I have faith not only in this vaccine but in all of them,” Castillo, who did not take questions from reporters, said in a brief statement after receiving the injection.

“It’s crucial to get both doses to reduce the possibility of ending up in an ICU (intensive-care-unit) bed. With the two doses, we’ll also be counteracting the third wave that’s been threatening us,” the former rural schoolteacher and labor leader added.

The president said his administration will make the vaccination campaign its top priority because “we can’t advance in other spaces if the population isn’t vaccinated.”

Cevallos said Sinopharm’s shot is more than 90 percent effective in preventing fatal Covid-19 complications and urged all Peruvians who have not yet received their second dose to do so, adding that the full vaccine course is necessary to be “correctly protected.”

A total of 5.7 million people – or 17 percent of the population – have received the full two-dose course, while some 2.5 million thus far only have received one dose.

People in Lima between the ages of 28 and 34 are currently eligible to receive the first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, while second doses are available to those over 35.

Peru has been among the countries hardest hit by the pandemic, with more than 2.1 million confirmed coronavirus cases and nearly 200,000 deaths attributed to Covid-19.

With nearly 600 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants, the country’s case fatality rate is the highest in the world. EFE


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