Wednesday 27 September 2023

Country by Country Guide to Covid Vaccines in Central America

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QCOSTARICA – Covid vaccination in Central America is well underway. Here’s an updated country guide to how they’re doing, as of March 18, 2021.

The topic of vaccines is controversial, stirring up strong feelings on both sides of the debate. Just look at the Q’s Facebook page and other pages and social networks for any posts about vaccines.

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No matter which country you’re in or from, discussions of vaccines divide.

In the past year, we’ve seen our economies disappear, entire sectors decimated, and massive job losses with restrictions and border closures.

Unlike North America and Europe, in Central America, there are no social security blankets, though Costa Rica did make a futile attempt with its “Bono Proteger”. Countries, like its people, from a saying in region: “Ir de guatemala a guatepeor” (going from bad to worse), a play on words expressing the paradoxical situation of someone who, by avoiding a bad situation, ends up getting into a worse one.

So where is Central America when it comes to COVID vaccines?


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Panama (population .746 million – 2019 World Bank)paid US$48 million to buy 4 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to vaccinate two million adult Panamanians, almost half the country. Panama’s initial vaccine rollout started badly, when only 12,840 doses of the Pfizer vaccine arrived on January 20, well short of the expected 40,000 doses.

Since that rocky start, Panama has received more Pfizer vaccine and is the leading country in Central America in terms of its rollout, having vaccinated over 266,000 people and with a rate of 6.17 vaccinated per 100 people, by far the highest in the region.

Panama also has order almost 1.1 million doses of the Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine “for seniors” and 300 thousand Johnson and Johnson covid-19 vaccine, which need one single shot instead of two.

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Panama will also receive another 1.1 million doses from the World Health Organization-sponsored COVAX initiative.  Panama has also made a deal with Russia for 3 million doses of its Sputnik V vaccine.

Costa Rica

Costa Rica (population 4.246 million – 2019 World Bank), was the first out of the vaccine’ gate, receiving its first shipment, 9.750 doses, from Pfizer on December 23, 2020.

Elizabeth Castillo, a 91-year-old nursing home resident, became the first Costa Rican to receive a Covid vaccine on the morning of December 24, 2020.

Initially, Costa Rica had made commitments for some 6 million doses of the covid-19 vaccine to vaccinate some 3 million (60% of the population) adults. Last week, the country committed to a purchase of an additional one million doses from Pfizer, boosting the total to more than 7 million doses.

The country’s Ministry of Health reports having completed the vaccination of group 1 priority and is currently working on vaccinating priority group 2, those from 58 years of age an up, with or without risk factors.

Only the Pfizer vaccine available in-country at this time. The country expects the first shipment of the 1 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in May, in addition, it will also start receiving shipments of the two million doses from the COVAX initiative.

So far, (as of the end of last week) Costa Rica has vaccinated over 248,000 people, the second highest in Central America after Panama. Costa Rica’s rate-per-hundred-people is 4.87, again the second highest after Panama.


Nicaragua (population 6.546 million – 2019 World Bank), the poorest of the poor in the region, has, as with everything else COVID-related this year, Nicaragua has been secretive about the vaccination program.

Official government information indicates the country is buying 7.4 million doses split between Sputnik V, AstraZeneca, and India’s Covaxin vaccines. It’s unclear if this info is true or not, particularly when Russia and India have reported donating vaccines, including to Nicaragua.

What is true is that Nicaragua is eligible for free vaccines from the COVAX initiative.

As to how many vaccines the country has actually received and the number of people that have been vaccinated, as with the progress of the pandemic in the country, official numbers do not match realities reported by independent groups and/or the remaining independent media.


The IHSS (the Honduran health system) ordered 1.4 million doses of the Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine to vaccinate 700,000 Hondurans, all who must be affiliated with the IHSS.

The contract with Oxford University/AstraZeneca says that the first 156,000 doses will arrive in Honduras on April 21, with the same amount on May 21. It’s expected all 1.4 million doses will be in Honduras by the end of August.

Outside of the AstraZeneca deal, Honduras received 5,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine as a donation from Israel on February 25. It began administering these on February 28.

Honduras (population 9.746 million – 2019 World Bank), is also one of the countries designated by the WHO to receive COVID vaccine free of charge from the COVAX initiative. It received its first COVAX batch of 48,000 Pfizer doses on March 13. The government says that it will receive enough vaccine from the COVAX initiative to cover 20% of its needs. The rest will come from a coalition between the IHSS and the private sector.

Honduras has also made a deal with the Russians for 700,000 doses of the Sputnik V vaccine.

So far, Honduras has vaccinated 7,100 people at a rate per 100 of 0.07.

El Salvador

El Salvador (population 6.454 million – 2019 World Bank), agreed to buy 2 million doses of the Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccine for delivery in the first half of 2021, receiving its first batch on February 17.

President Bukele promises “free, universal, and voluntary” vaccinations for all Salvadorans, saying he’s also talking to three other vaccine manufacturers.

El Salvador is also on the list of countries eligible to receive free vaccines through the COVAX initiative, and it received 33,600 doses of AstraZeneca through that program on March 11.

Across the board, El Salvador expects to receive some four million doses of COVID vaccines in 2021 through a mixture of COVAX donations and buying power.

So far, El Salvador has administered some 36,000 vaccines at a rate of 0.56 per 100 people.


Guatemala (population 16.6 million – 2019 World Bank) is signed up to the COVAX initiative, and this is where it expected to its first doses of vaccine. Unlike El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Honduras, Guatemala is not on the list to get free vaccines from COVAX. It’ll have to pay, like Costa Rica, Panama, and Belize.

Guatemala received its first 81,600 doses of COVAX vaccine (Oxford AstraZeneca) on March 11, but before that, it received 5,000 doses of Moderna vaccine as a gift from Israel.

Guatemala expects to receive some 6.7 million doses through COVAX, which will vaccinate about 3.37 million people, 20% of the population.

The government says it hopes to reach direct agreements with the pharmaceutical companies to buy more vaccines and cover more people. There are no details of who they’re speaking to about this.

Vaccinations are now underway in earnest in Guatemala, with over 48,000 shots given, the third-highest in Central America after Panama and Costa Rica (who both started way earlier). Guatemala’s rate-per-hundred-people is low, though, at 0.27. Only Honduras is lower in Central America.


You thought we’d forget Belize (population 390,353 – 2019 World Bank), a country that is making a lot of headlines right now as the only country in the region allowing vaccinated tourists to enter without a Covid test.

But how is its own vaccination program going?

Most of Belize’s vaccines will come through COVAX, through an initiative with the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA). CARPHA has helped Belize with some of its down payment to the COVAX initiative.

Before that, though, Belize received 1,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine from Barbados on February 24 to kickstart its program. It’s also expected to receive 25,000 doses of Sputnik V vaccine from Russia.

On March 8, Belize really kickstarted its program when it received 25,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine as another donation, this time from India.

With reports from

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"Rico" is the crazy mind behind the Q media websites, a series of online magazines where everything is Q! In these times of new normal, stay at home. Stay safe. Stay healthy.

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