QCOSTARICA – The first vaccines against covid-19 in Costa Rica were applied on December 24, three months later, the data says that 106,227 Costa Ricans have their full protection and another 99,971 await their second dose.
This rate worries some specialists, who consider that this rhythm moves the country away from being able to contain a possible third wave, like the one already observed in other countries.
“The virus threatens a third wave. It is something real in other countries and it will comes to us. The average this week (in Costa Rica) is already around 400 new cases a day, it is much more than the 304 we saw a few weeks ago. Immunization levels are not going so fast, the wave may reach us sooner, it will not give us time,” warned epidemiologist Ronald Evans.
As explained by the Costa Rican Social Security Fund (CCSS), the rate of vaccination is dictated by the number of doses received. In addition, since two injections are required, the second dose is saved for each person who will receive the first, that is, half of the vaccines are “blocked” to place the second injection.
As explained by the President of the National Emergency Commission (CNE), Alexander Solis, at the Tuesday press conference from Casa Presidencial, the current vaccination program works three weeks applying the first dose, then three weeks applying the second dose, and then the cycle begins again.
So far, the country has received 676,400 vaccines including the latest shipment of 119,340 doses received Tuesday night.
For Evans, who is also a researcher at the Universidad Hispanoamericana, that is precisely the problem: the country at this moment has no control over how much product it receives.
“The problem is not one of the Caja’s capacity or logistics, the problem is not there. The problem is that the delivery of doses does not allow us to go at the rate we want,” he stressed.
However, Costa Rica is not alone in this, other countries are experiencing the same slow delivery situation.
Far from herd immunity
The national vaccination rate keeps us from obtaining the so-called herd immunity, which occurs when there is a considerable majority of the vaccinated population so that they protect the unvaccinated and the incidence of the disease low.
There is no clear number to obtain herd immunity from covid-19, but a minimum of 70% of the population is considered. The Time to Herd app indicates that, depending on the population of Costa Rica and if at the pace we are today were maintained, our country would achieve herd immunity in 727 days, or 1.99 years.
Even more: if 75% of the population were targeted, it would take 782 days (2.14 years) and if 80% were pursued, we would have 836 days (2.29 years).
For Evans, it is necessary to negotiate with other pharmaceutical companies that have the possibility of delivering their product more quickly.
“There is a range of options with other vaccines that may be able to provide us with what we need in less time, and that can be applied more quickly,” he said.
“Why aren’t options being negotiated with China, Russia, for example? Perhaps there was a miscalculation, there was too much caution, we decided to be guided by what was said by the FDA (US Food and Drug Administration) and we did not dare to look for other options that would give us more doses in less time. The authorities were very timid,” he added.
The specialist assures that this speed could be increased with the arrival of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
“AstraZeneca arrives in May, but not with so many doses (204,000 will arrive from the direct agreement with the company and 218,000 from the COVAX initiative). This vaccine allows us to give the second dose 90 days after the first, as is done in England, and this would give us the chance to protect more people,” he commented.
“We still have time to negotiate more doses with them or with other companies that can give us more speed,” he added.
How far is Costa Rica from that herd immunity relative to other countries?
Time to herd, which is developed by the artificial intelligence company DeepAI, took into account data from more than 100 countries and calculated, based on the country’s population and its current vaccination rate, how long it would take to reach 70% if the speed was maintained.
There is a caveat: in the list there are countries that use different vaccines, some of these with a level of speed in production and application faster than that of Pfizer. In addition, the Janssen vaccine (Johnson & Johnson line of vaccines), which is a single dose, has already entered the map.
That said, there are times as short as 48 days in Israel (1.5 months) and others as long as 32,922 days in Kenya (90.2 years).
In Central America, in Panama 706 days (1.93 years), in Belize 571 days (1.56 years) and in El Salvador 2,634 days (7.21 years). Nicaragua, Honduras, and Guatemala are not listed.
In South America, in Colombia, it would be 1,318 days (3.61 years), in Uruguay 244 days (8.13 months), in Brazil 672 days (1.84 years), in Argentina 564 (1.54 years) and Chile, stands out, which in 73 days (2.43 months).
In the United States, this would be reached in 133 days (4.4 months), in Canada in 353 (11.77 months), and in Mexico 868 days (2.38 years).
“In vaccination, Chile is an example throughout the world, they are doing 1.06 doses per 100 inhabitants per day. This is monstrous, in 90 days they would have the entire population vaccinated with one dose,” Evans said.
However, at the moment Chile is also registering a large increase in cases.
According to DW.com, last Saturday, Chile set the record for daily infections: 7,084 new cases and an average of 100 people die every day: one deceased every 15 minutes.
The report highlights that mass vaccination began when there was a very high level of contagion and the protection offered with the vaccine is not immediate.
“Vaccines are not the only tool to control the epidemic. They are one more tool, which prevents serious disease, but not transmission. Viruses continue to circulate,” said epidemiologist Muriel Ramírez.
For Evans, this is a clear sign that even with the vaccine we cannot ignore other measures such as masks, hygiene, and physical distancing.