Colombia reaches COVID-19 vaccine agreements with Moderna, Sinovac

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BOGOTA (Reuters) – Colombia has reached agreements for doses of COVID-19 vaccines developed by Moderna Inc and Sinovac Biotech Ltd and plans to begin a mass vaccination campaign on Feb. 20, President Ivan Duque said on Friday.

The Andean country’s government aims have at least 1 million people vaccinated against the novel coronavirus by the end of March, Duque added. Colombia, a country of about 50 million people, hopes to vaccinate some 34 million people in a bid to achieve what is known as herd immunity, when a large part of a given population becomes immune to an infectious disease like COVID-19.

Colombia previously announced agreements to secure 10 million doses each of vaccines developed by Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE, and AstraZeneca PLC, as well as 9 million doses of a vaccine developed by Janssen, the pharmaceutical wing of Johnson & Johnson. It also has secured 20 million doses of vaccines via the COVAX mechanism backed by the World Health Organization (WHO).

“We have arrived at the decision that the mass vaccination in Colombia will start on Feb. 20,” Duque said during his nightly televised address.

Colombia has reported more than 2 million coronavirus cases and more than 53,000 deaths from COVID-19 during the pandemic.

While previous agreements secured enough vaccine doses to inoculate 29 million Colombians, the new agreements with U.S. company Moderna and China’s Sinovac secure a further 10 million doses and 2.5 million doses, respectively, taking Colombia’s total to more than 35 million doses.

Health Minister Fernando Ruiz said in December that Pfizer would deliver 1.7 million vaccine doses in February. Ruiz this month said a reduced delivery of Pfizer vaccines would arrive in Colombia via the COVAX mechanism in the first week of February.

Duque did not say which of the vaccines would be used to start the mass vaccination campaign. So far, only the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech has been approved by Colombia’s food and drug regulator, INVIMA.

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