Tuesday 18 May 2021

How Chile became an unlikely winner in the COVID-19 vaccine race

At first glance, it may seem that the race to acquire COVID-19 vaccines has been won by western nations. But alongside the UK, Canada, USA and EU, another country has also secured a high number of doses relative to its population – Chile.

To date, Chile has ordered close to 90 million vaccine doses – enough to fully vaccinate its population of 19.2 million people twice. It’s set to receive vaccines from Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Sinovac and Johnson & Johnson as well as from the global vaccine-supply program, Covax.

- Advertisement -

How has this small country managed to stand alongside the wealthiest nations in the world in securing enough vaccine doses to immunize its people? Economics has certainly been a factor, but not in the same way as for the others leading the vaccine race.

Economic maneuvering

Chile is not a poor country. It has been one of Latin America’s fastest growing economies in recent decades. It’s also a member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a “club of mostly rich countries” that brings together nations with the highest levels of income and human development. Yet income inequality in Chile is higher than in any other OECD country and 65% higher than the OECD average.

Because of this, Chile has been immersed in a sociopolitical crisis since the end of 2019. Massive demonstrations and violent riots against inequality have seen the government face the most serious social unrest since the end of Pinochet’s dictatorship. As a consequence, president Sebastián Piñera’s approval rating is the lowest of any leader since the country’s return to democracy in 1990.

In June 2020, a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases prompted strong criticism of the government’s ability to handle the pandemic, which only added to the president’s woes. In response, Piñera seems to have understood that the only way of improving his popularity before his presidency ends later this year is by securing the highest number of vaccines possible.

- Advertisement -

Chile has already received millions of doses of the CoronaVac vaccine and has started distributing them. EPA-EFE

This has meant going back on his previous efforts to paint the country as an example of stability and sound economic management. Instead, Piñera has argued the opposite in order to get better deals with pharmaceutical companies.

Chile’s status as a high-income country in the eyes of the World Bank has been a particular sticking point when negotiating orders with vaccine manufacturers, especially AstraZeneca. To avoid paying a high price, the government has had to demonstrate that due to the pandemic and the sociopolitical crisis, Chile’s economic position is worse than that of the world’s most advanced economies, and so it deserves to pay less for vaccines. This recasting of Chile as a country facing economic hardship seems to have worked.

In an international order characterized by zero-sum calculations and self-interest, Piñera and the Chilean government have been following the rules of the game to boost their own chances of survival.

Picking many winners

But the Chilean government hasn’t just been successful by pleading lack of funds. It’s also acquired doses by building a highly diverse portfolio of vaccines, composed of different types at different stages of development, to hedge risks.

Although other governments have done this too, Chile adopted this strategy very early on. It moved quickly into negotiations with many pharmaceutical companies, including frontrunners such as AstraZeneca and Pfizer but also Johnson & Johnson, which was further behind in development. This was helped by the Chilean economy’s tradition of being highly open to trade: Chilean trade negotiators have strong skills, a wide range of international contacts and are used to facing uncertain environments.

- Advertisement -

It’s fair to say that in its diversification strategy, Chile went far beyond most advanced economies, pinning its hopes on the CoronaVac vaccine, developed by the Chinese company Sinovac (it has ordered 60 million doses). In contrast, most European countries have chosen only western vaccines, despite the comparative advantage of Chinese companies’ massive manufacturing capacity and their vaccines being easy to transport.

Trial data for doses

Choosing to participate in the clinical trials of COVID-19 vaccines also strengthened Chile’s negotiating position. AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Sinovac and CanSino all conducted phase 3 trials in the country.

Chile has stringent regulatory protection for clinical trial participants, but this didn’t dissuade developers from conducting research there. This may have been counterbalanced by the international outlook of Chilean universities, some of which had already forged close ties with these pharmaceutical companies before the pandemic.

The Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, for example, had already established links with Sinovac for developing vaccines against respiratory viruses before COVID-19 struck. So it wasn’t difficult to convince the Chilean government to provide funds for hosting the CoronaVac trial in the country. In return, Sinovac promised early access to doses and a better price.

The Chilean government’s ambitious goal is to vaccinate 80% of its population by June 2021. Despite having secured double the doses needed, it is now negotiating additional deals in case those contracts fail.

Rolling out the vaccine to the public is progressing quickly, having only started in early February. The Chilean health system has significant experience in mass immunization programs, and many vaccination centers have been set up around the country to meet this goal.

For now, the government’s strategy to put Chile among the first countries to secure vaccine doses seems to have paid off. It’s too early, though, to predict whether it will have a positive effect on Piñera and the government’s popularity.The Conversation

 

This article by Veronica Diaz-Cerda, Teaching Associate in International Relations, Aston University, is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

- Advertisement -

FACT CHECK:
We strive for accuracy in its reports. But if you see something that doesn’t look right, send us an email. The Q reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it’s accuracy.

Related Articles

Will Costa Rica be on US list of vaccine donation?

QCOSTARICA - United States President Joe Biden announced on Monday that...

Bishop of Cartago suspends baptisms, first communions and confirmations to avoid family parties

QCOSTARICA - No baptisms, first communions or confirmations will be permitted...

MOST READ

Nicaragua, the safest country to travel in the region despite Covid-19: Study

TODAY NICARAGUA – A study based on data from the WHO and the University of Oxford placed Nicaragua as one of the “10 safest...

Costa Rica’s contagion rate continues to decline, experts once again warn of a ‘false ilusion’

QCOSTARICA - The contagion rate of covid-19 in Costa Rica fell for the second consecutive week and registers the lowest values ​​of the last...

Today’s Covid news: We are almost a death every hour

QCOSTARICA - The last seven days (May to May 11) have been bitterly deadly for the country, with 146 people dying from covid-19. According to...

Covid vaccine passport, salvation or division?

EL UNIVERSAL Washington / Brussels - The desperation to reactivate economies, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, has prompted an idea: to create...

72 cantons on orange alert due to high risk of COVID-19 contagion

QCOSTARICA - The National Commission for Risk Prevention and Emergency Attention (CNE) has increased alerts for another 7 cantons, bringing the total to 72...

Health expands group 3 vaccination for people from 16 to 58 years

QCOSTARICA - Adolescents of 16 and 17 years old with some risk factor in case of falling ill with covid-19 will be part of...

Caja to move ‘non-covid’ patients to private hospitals

QCOSTARICA - Caja patients with diseases other than covid-19 will be transferred to private hospitals, to make room for covid patients, through the "Urgent...

Today’s Covid News: 32 deaths in the last 24 hours; 3,039 news cases

QCOSTARICA - Costa Rica reported this Thursday the highest number of deaths associated with covid-19 in a single day, since the start of the...

Coronavirus digest: choice to get ‘vaccinated or infected’

The German health minister, Jens Spahn, said that despite falling daily cases of the COVID-19 in Germany, caution is still needed. "Everyone will experience this virus," Spahn...

WANT TO STAY UP TO DATE WITH THE LATEST!

Get our daily newsletter with the latest posts directly in your mailbox. Click on the subscribe and fill out the form. It's that simple!

Log In

Forgot password?

Forgot password?

Enter your account data and we will send you a link to reset your password.

Your password reset link appears to be invalid or expired.

Log in

Privacy Policy

Add to Collection

No Collections

Here you'll find all collections you've created before.