QCOSTARICA – Contrary to tougher sanitary measures expected to be announced today at today’s press conference from Casa Presidencial, President Carlos Alvarado rather gave “positive” news.
“Tonight (Wednesday, December 23) the first batch of vaccines against covid-19 will arrive in the country by air. The first doses will arrive by plane at 9:00 pm to start the vaccination process, following what is established by the Vaccine Commission, the Ministry of Health and the Costa Rican Social Security Fund (CCSS),” said the president via a video message.
The process of vaccination will begin this Thursday (December 24), three months ahead of the anticipated.
Seniors in long-stay homes and first-line care personnel will the first to receive the Pfizer and the BioNTech vaccine.
“It is positive news because it may be the beginning of the end of this pandemic, it is the vaccine that Costa Rica promised to bring months ago with the work of the Vaccine Commission, National Emergency Commission, Health, Caja And the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has managed to get those first doses today,” Alvarado reiterated.
Of course, he warned, the 6 million doses needed to vaccinate the three million people who urgently require will arrive progressively. The application will be made according to the groups established by the CCSS.
“We expect new shipments weekly,” he said.
Daniel Salas, Minister of Health, specified tonight, 9,750 doses will arrive in the country and 10,725 for next week,
“So we will be constantly receiving vaccines to activate the application,” he said.
Costa Rica acquired three million doses of the Pfizer / Biontech vaccine for 1.5 million individuals.
A person who is vaccinated should receive the second dose 21 days later. Afterward, the minister explained, it may take 15 days for the immune system to raise its defenses.
As he did months ago, Salas asked the population to react. At that time, he recalled, many people reacted out of fear, now, he said, he asks to react out of love.
“Let us react out of love, out of solidarity, out of empathy, because although many people are not going to die from this disease, there are many who do, 2,000 and other deaths break a record. Let us react, let us not walk as if this matter (the virus) were not with us, like zombies that we do not see that the hospital system is collapsing, that we continue to have parties, bursting bubbles … ”, he emphasized.
Leandra Abarca, the coordinator of the Immunization Program of the CCSS, explained that the prioritization to inoculate was established with the work of the Vaccination Commission.
“Within that first group we are going to have to prioritize, with the first vaccines that arrive, not only these 9,000 but during January and February,” she said.
The intention is to try to cover 100% of the people in the first group according to availability and operational capacity. That’s why, she said, discipline is important.
“Tomorrow we will start in two places, to cover first response workers and nursing homes, during January and February we will be programming according to this first group,” she explained.
The five established groups are:
FIRST GROUP: Elderly people residing in a long-stay nursing homes, and those who work in there. Also health, police and emergency personnel.
These front-line personnel are made up of: the workers of the C Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social, the Ministry of Health, personnel who work in private hospitals, the National Emergency Commission, Firefighters, the Red Cross and the police forces, including Traffic, Immigration, and the Organismo de Investigación Judicial (OIJ), among others.
SECOND GROUP: People aged 58 or over, regardless of whether or not they have any risk factors. Age will be verified by means of the cedula or residence card.
THIRD GROUP: People between 18 and 58 years old with some risk factor such as hypertensive, diabetic, heart disease, chronic respiratory disease, people with chronic kidney disease, grade III and morbid obesity and cancer patients.
FOURTH GROUP: Officials of the Ministry of Public Education and private schools, and those who work in the comprehensive care centers (CAI) and shelters of the Patronato Nacional de la Infancia. Also prisoners and those who work for the 9-1-1 Emergency System.
FIFTH GROUP: Students of health sciences and related technicians in clinical fields of the CCSS; people between 40 and 57 years old without any of the risks previously described, but who carry out work activities where they have contact with other people or have an impact on the productive sector, such as agriculture, construction, customer service, restaurants, domestic workers, among others.
According to Abarca, the projection is that the process that will begin this Thursday will last until November next in order to reach three million people. Due to this duration, it is essential to maintain hygiene and distance measures.
The process could be shorter, but that will depend on availability.
For the purchase of the vaccines, the Government set aside US$84 million since November. It was the National Emergency Commission (CNE), the institution responsible for purchases, although the CCSS will be responsible for the vaccination campaign.
The CNE also purchased the super-freezers necessary to maintain the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, which require storage at -70 ° Celsius. However, the vaccines they can remain at a maximum of 5° C for five days before their application.
Apart from this vaccine, the country acquired the one developed by AstraZeneca and is part of the COVAX Mechanism of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), through which it will receive other doses.
Safe and controlled’
Román Macaya, president of the CCSS, was clear that it is not a mass vaccination, but rather by layers of risk of the population. It will be, he said, a “safe, controlled and high impact” operation.
“The highest risk groups will be selected; controlled because there will be strict control of when the second doses are due; and safe because we ask the entire population to be very disciplined.
“Please, do not all go out to be vaccinated, unless they have been called to be vaccinated, by risk factors or by all the elements that will determine the priority of vaccination,” said Macaya, explaining that the Logistics Management and the Caja’s staff have been preparing for this process for months with the idea of reaching 80% of the adult population.
Adolescents and children are not considered because vaccines have not been developed for them, estimating the lower impact of this virus.
The idea, said Macaya, is to generate herd immunity to protect the entire population.
“The team that is going to carry out this vaccination is highly technical and trained, has the expertise and enormous commitment and charisma in different areas of the country,” he said.
He warned; However, being vaccinated does not authorize a return to pre-pandemic practices, since immunity develops little by little.
The announcement of the arrival of the vaccines was preceded by strong and repeated warnings in recent days, due to the increase in patients with Covid-19 in critical condition who arrived at hospitals and who, for the first time, confronted the health system with the shortage of beds.