El Salvador began on Wednesday the application of the first dose of a batch of 20,000 vaccines developed by the pharmaceutical AstraZeneca against COVID-19.
It is the first nation of the so-called Northern Triangle of Central America, made up of this country together with Honduras and Guatemala, which starts the immunization process to combat the pandemic.
Mirna Esmeralda Moreno was the first to receive the injection hours after the arrival of the batch of vaccines. The 53-year-old Salvadoran has been working for the Ministry of Health for more than two decades and has fought the coronavirus on the front line despite suffering from high blood pressure and diabetes mellitus.
“We are going to smile, but they will not see my face,” said Mirna, who did not remove her mask, while the Minister of Health, Francisco Alabí, prepared to apply the vaccine. President Nayib Bukele stood by the woman’s side to observe the whole process while she smiled and said to the minister “give it, give it away, I’m used to it”.
In a brief press conference, the Salvadoran president took time to clarify the versions of the origin of the vaccines.
“There has been a confusion, generally created by the opposition, that these vaccines come from the COVAX initiative. “These vaccines have been purchased 100% by the government of El Salvador,” he said.
“We want to thank the Serum Institute that has been able to provide us with this vaccine, also the government of India, its Prime Minister and of course the pharmaceutical AstraZeneca,” said Minister Alabí upon receiving the shipment at the Oscar Arnulfo Romero international airport.
Alabí, together with the Minister of Defense and the director of the National Civil Police, supervised the packaging of the vaccines that were transported in refrigerated trucks to the National Biological Center of the Ministry of Health, where their cold chain will be protected and then shipped to vaccination centers.
The Salvadoran government has announced that it has agreements with different pharmaceutical companies to purchase nine million doses that will be used to immunize 4.5 million people.
“Why will 4.5 million vaccinated? First because it is voluntary, although we hope that the majority of the population will wear it, and secondly because it is not recommended to apply it to young children, “added Bukele.
The country’s population amounts to seven million people.
The agreement with AstraZeneca is to acquire two million vaccines, while through the COVAX mechanism, supported by the World Health Organization to guarantee equitable access to the vaccine, El Salvador will receive 51,480 doses from Pfizer and 324,000 from AstraZeneca.
The COVAX mechanism will send 847,200 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Guatemala in March, while Honduras expects to receive 496,800 from the same pharmaceutical company.
Alabí said that in the next few weeks they expect a batch of 800,000 vaccines to arrive in the country and that they expect to apply some 2,000 daily at the 162 vaccination points.
According to the immunization plan, the first doses will be for doctors, nurses and all workers in public hospitals, and the vaccine will also be applied to medical and administrative personnel in private clinics. It will later be applied to police personnel, members of the armed forces and firefighters.
The plan will be followed by people over 80 years old – who represent 22% of deaths – and then those over 70 years old.
Alabí affirmed that the country is ready to start vaccination. “All the logistics are in place and we hope it will be completed in the shortest time possible.”
El Salvador has registered 58,023 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 1,767 deaths, according to the Center for Science in Systems Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.
Melissa Galbraith is the World News reporter for Globe Live Media. She covers all the major events happening around the World. From Europe to Americas, from Asia to Antarctica, Melissa covers it all. Never miss another Major World Event by bookmarking her author page right here.