QCOSTARICA – The President of the Comision Nacional de Emergencias (CNE), Alexander Solis, announced this Monday afternoon that Costa Rica is purchasing an additional two million additional doses of vaccine, bringing the total to 9 million for a population of 4.5 million people.
Solis confirmed that the decision was approved by the CNE board and would be signed with the pharmaceutical by Tuesday at the latest, to speed up the inoculation at a time when health services are overwhelmed to care for serious covid-19 patients.
The value of the purchase from Pfizer / BioNtech is US$24 million.
“To speed up the vaccination process in Costa Rica, we will purchase an additional 2 million doses of the vaccine from Pfizer / BioNTech. These will be added to the 7 million doses that we already had insured via contracts,” informed President Carlos Alvarado, on his Twitter account.
The value of the purchase from Pfizer/BioNtech is US$24 million.
Although the news seeks to improve the local management of the new coronavirus, so far one of the obstacles to mitigating infections is the slow delivery of the drug.
According to Solis, the vaccines will arrive during this year (2021) starting in July, and directed to accelerate the third quarter vaccination of group 3 (from 18 to 58 years, with risk factors).
“We had already expanded with one million, with this we will reach 9 million vaccines to vaccinate 4.5 million Costa Ricans,” said Solís
Why Pfizer / BioNTec Again?
Why Pfizer and not another supplier or others, was the question put to Solis at the afternoon press conference from Casa Presidencial.
The main reason, he said, is their delivery times, only Pfizer can guarantee a faster delivery and because there are no contracts for other vaccines or authorizations in place.
That is, the additional purchase from Pfizer is an addendum to the existing contract that was initially for 3 million doses and then expanded by one million more, explained Solis.
He even stated that even if they (the other contracts existed), there was no possibility that they would arrive sooner.
He assured, however, that the Government has tried, in the case of the AstraZeneca vaccine, to speed up deliveries, which have been delayed due to its logistical capabilities.
So far, Costa Rica has received 43,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine through the COVAX facility. More vaccines from COVAX has been expected in the coming months, however, they are experiencing supply/delivery delays.
Alvarado for his part said that with the current vaccines it is projected to finish vaccinating people over 65 years old on May 15 and all group 2 (58 and over) before the end of June.
In addition to speeding up the vaccination process, this new purchase opens up the possibility of increasing coverage for minors up to 16 years of age. They also serve as a reserve if the vaccine is authorized for minors up to 12 years of age and for an eventual third dose.
Vaccines at private pharmacies and hospitals
Asked if and when the vaccines in Costa Rica would be available for purchase at private pharmacies, clinics and hospitals, Solis explained that the private facilities are authorized, however, there is a supply problem.
The pharmaceuticals are at this time selling only to governments. Solis added that Costa Rica is dealing directly with the pharmaceuticals and in the case of the Russia and China vaccines with the respective government through the Chancellery.
The sale in the private sector is depending on the availability of vaccines.
Order from Biden
This Monday, Gisella Sánchez, president of the Costa Rican North American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) publicly asked President Alvarado to contact the president of the United States, Joseph Biden, and ask him for 1 or 1.5 million vaccines that he can donate
Sánchez added that she has asked the Vaccination Commission to advance the progress with the registration of more vaccines in addition to the existing ones in order to obtain more doses.
“Our call is to request the Government to speed up vaccination as a way to protect ourselves; We understand that there must be short-term restrictions but the only way to defeat the virus is for people not to get sick and for that we need to speed up vaccination,” she said.