The World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed that Colombia can begin a COVID vaccination program in February as coronavirus infections reached a record high.
Health Minister Fernando Ruiz made the same announcement in President Ivan Duque‘s daily propaganda show on Friday, the day his department registered 13,277 new infections, the highest number since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.
Registered daily deaths rose to 232, the highest number since September.
Hospitals throughout the country have reported being in crisis because of the recent surge in hospitalizations and local authorities have announced strict measures to prevent healthcare collapses.
Daily registered COVID infections
Source: Health Ministry
The vice-president of the Colombian Medical Federation blamed the recent surge on the government’s failures to carry out testing, which has made it impossible to prevent or detect outbreaks.
The magnitude is much bigger than what the daily official figures show, which can be explained, among other things, by the low number of tests performed in Colombia… As a result of this under registration, Colombia is in the top 10 of total infections and mortalities in the world.
FMC vice-president Carolina Corcho
WHO backs Duque claim on quick vaccination
The WHO confirmed on Saturday that the COVAX vaccine, which is being developed by a coalition of government in coordination with the international health organization, their vaccine would be ready in February.
The announcement came days after Reuters reported that major issues with the lab developing this vaccine could delay vaccination in developing countries until 2024, a claim now denied by the WHO.
Duque announces multiple vaccine deals
The president additionally said Saturday that his government closed deals to acquire 40 million shots from, among others, pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Astrazeneca, whose vaccine has yet to be approved by any health authority.
The acquisitions would guarantee free vaccines for 80% of Colombia’s population of 50,000.
Pfizer said Saturday that the 10 million shots Colombia’s Finance Minister authorized early this month will be delivered sometime in 2021 once Invimas, the agency that must approve the vaccine, has given its green light.
Pfizers’ vaccine, which promises 95% immunity against the disease caused by the coronavirus, has already been approved by authorities in the United States, the European Union and the United Kingdom.
When Invimas would be able to approve the pending vaccines that would allow mass vaccination is uncertain.
How long the government would need to effectively finish the unprecedented vaccination program is also uncertain.