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Vaccination rate in the three largest economies in Latin America remains slow

In absolute numbers, Brazil is ahead, but not in proportion to the adult population. Mexico and Argentina, direct partners, have even more stalled immunization campaigns

Pfizer / BioNTech vial, during vaccination of Olympic athletes in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, last Friday, May 14th. Photo: Fernando Frazão/Agência Brasil
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  • The race is not only for the resumption of the economy but to protect the population from dangerous variants already in circulation;
  • The health emergency has materialized as the worst economic, social and productive crisis in the region in the last 120 years, which also, to some extent, makes it difficult to negotiate to obtain more immunizers.

A crucial factor for Latin America‘s economic recovery, vaccination against COVID-19 continues at a slow pace in the region. Among the three largest economies (not counting Venezuela), Brazil is the one that applied the highest absolute number of first doses (38.2 million). Still, proportionally the immunization campaign is slow: only 23.8% of the adult population received the first dose, and 11.80% the second, according to data from the consortium of press vehicles formed by Folha de S.Paulo, UOL, O Estado de S. Paulo, Extra, O Globo and G1. Mexico and Argentina, direct partners in the fight against COVID-19, also need to accelerate immunization against the disease. The race is not only for the resumption of the economy but to protect the population from dangerous variants and already in circulation.

In Brazil, the lack of active pharmaceutical ingredients (IFA) paralyzed the production of CoronaVac by Instituto Butantan, Sinovac‘s local partner. FioCruz, which produces the immunizer from the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca locally, is experiencing the same problem, despite having managed to gradually increase the production of the vaccine in recent months. Inputs come, respectively, from China, with whom Brazil‘s relations are strained, and from India, which is going through a difficult time of the pandemic which also affects its ability to export inputs and vaccines.

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Last week, the federal government signed an agreement to purchase an additional 100 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech, but most of that batch should not arrive in the country until October. In March, the government closed the first agreement, also for 100 million doses of the company’s immunizing agent, 15.5 million for the second quarter, and about 86 million for the second half.

The back-and-forth of negotiations between Jair Bolsonaro‘s and the American laboratory was one of the main themes of the week. Pfizer’s general manager for Latin America, Carlos Murillo, told the Senate Pandemic Parliamentary Inquiry Commission (CPI) on Thursday (13) that, between May 2020 and February this year, the laboratory made five offers to the Brazilian government, who, on several occasions, either ignored the offers or denied them. Also in February, the Pfizer vaccine was the first to obtain definitive registration with the Brazilian health regulator Anvisa.

Janssen‘s immunizer obtained authorization to carry out phase 3 tests in the country. The Russian vaccine Sputnik V, on the other hand, had its exceptional import order denied by Anvisa weeks ago. More than 14 states were negotiating to import the vaccine. Grupo União Química, a Brazilian partner of the Russian Direct Investment Fund that financed the development and production of the immunizer by the Gamaleya Institute, has already started producing a pilot batch of the immunizer in the country and hopes to obtain registration for emergency use with Anvisa “in next few weeks. “

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Mexico, the region’s second-largest economy, administered 22.4 million doses, immunizing over 13 million people. The government planned to vaccinate nearly 15 million people over 60 and all health personnel before the end of March, but the deadline was extended until May. The vaccines most used in the country so far were Pfizer, CoronaVac, and Oxford-AstraZeneca. In the case of Pfizer, there is a 34.4 million contract, but just over 7 million have arrived in Mexico.

In August last year, the country signed an agreement with Argentina and the Carlos Slim Foundation for the distribution of 150 to 250 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to Latin America, 77.4 million to Mexico alone. The United States also sent an additional 2.7 million doses of the immunizer to the country, which also has made deals for the purchase of two more vaccines: Sputnik V and CanSino.

Argentina has applied just over 9.8 million doses to date, having inoculated 7.9 million adults with the first dose. Since launching its immunization plan against COVID-19 in late December 2020, Argentina has received more than 12 million doses from different laboratories.

Of this total, 6.5 million doses are from the Sputnik V vaccine, 4 million from Sinopharm, 1.5 million from Oxford-AstraZeneca (just over 1 million doses received via COVAX).

In late April, Ciro Ugarte, director of health emergencies at the PAHO/ WHO Pan American Health Organization, said that Latin America and the Caribbean need to seek funding and new agreements to meet the need for vaccines. “Latin America and the Caribbean need more vaccines, there are 7 million doses via COVAX for Latin America and the Caribbean, but the need is much greater, as many countries cannot count on partnerships with laboratories,” he said at the time.

The health emergency has materialized as the worst economic, social and productive crisis in the region in the last 120 years, which also, to some extent, makes it difficult to negotiate to obtain more immunizers.

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