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Chile speeds ahead with Chinese vaccines

By SERGIO HELD | China Daily | Updated: 2021-04-12 09:52
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A child looks on as a woman receives a dose of the Sinovac vaccine in Santiago, Chile, last month. IVAN ALVARADO/REUTERS

Strong partnership between countries credited for fastest rollout in region

Chile is setting a brisk pace with COVID-19 vaccinations, thanks in great measure to jabs developed in China.

With more than 37 percent of the population having received at least one shot, the country's vaccination campaign has been the standout in Latin America.

"Chile managed to structure a vaccination program with very positive characteristics, in which the Corona-Vac vaccine in particular, manufactured by China's Sinovac Biotech …has played a leading role," said Juan Esteban Musalem, president of the Chilean-Chinese Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Tourism.

"China and Chile have established expeditious channels of health collaboration, reflecting the excellent political and economic ties between the two countries."

Chile has administered more than 11 million jabs, with 10 million of those from Sinovac and the rest from the Pfizer-BioNTech partnership. The country has about 20 million people.

"Some 13 million doses of vaccines have arrived in the country, with more on the way, in addition to an existing agreement of understanding to receive 20 million annual doses during the next three years," Musalem said. "This shows the relevance that Chinese vaccines have had in this campaign."

Sebastian Ugarte, director of the critical medicine program at Andres Bello University in the Chilean capital Santiago, said: "The Sinovac vaccine has been key for the vaccination campaign in Chile, given the fact that almost 94 percent of the people that have been vaccinated in our country received it.

"The supply and logistics of this vaccine relating to storage is simple, given the range of temperatures that it requires. The availability of 10 million doses of the vaccine has allowed the country to reach these important figures of vaccination," added Ugarte, who is also an adviser to the World Health Organization.

Another approval

On Wednesday, the country's healthcare regulator approved the emergency use of a vaccine developed by CanSino Biologics of China.

"It is an endorsement of the vaccination program that the government is currently running, and which seeks to cover over 80 percent of the target population," said Heriberto Garcia, interim director of the Public Health Institute of Chile.

CanSino's vaccine, which has also been approved in China, Mexico and Pakistan, became the fourth COVID-19 vaccine to be authorized in Chile. The first batch is expected to arrive by early next month.

The CanSino vaccine requires a single dose, the Public Health Institute of Chile said in announcing the emergency approval.

It was developed by CanSino with the Beijing Institute of Biotechnology and the National Research Council of Canada.

The Sinovac vaccine remains the key plank in the country's strategy amid still-high levels of infections.

Efficacy and ease of distribution were key reasons for the vaccine's success, said Lorena Bustos, director of Lab-Com, a healthcare public relations firm in Santiago.

Chile has seen a surge in demand for intensive care beds as COVID-19 infections rise. However, people who have completed the two-dose schedule are showing positive results.

"While the spread of the virus keeps rising in all of the age groups, the spread in the group of people older than 70 years is going down," said Juan Cristobal Olivares, a software engineer who has been computer-modeling pandemic data.

The writer is a freelance journalist for China Daily.

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