Lessons from the fastest vaccinated country in the world

Chile has become the world’s fastest immunization of Covid-19 thanks to a well-organized plan, a strategy to buy a variety of vaccines and a solid public health system.

On March 9, Our World in Data organization released data showing that Chile overtook Israel as the country with the most people receiving Covid-19 vaccination in the world. Accordingly, Chile has injected an average of 1.08 doses of vaccine / day / 100 people in the past 7 days. While Israel injected an average of 1.03 doses / day / 100 people.

A country of 18 million people has received about 5 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine, almost a quarter of its population, since the campaign’s inception in December 2020. The government is expected to vaccinate the entire population by June.

Formal vaccination plan

Chile has been successful with its existing medical infrastructure and centuries of experience in mass vaccination campaigns.

“Chile has a strong primary health care system, a flexible immunization program with an electronic profile, making things quick and organized,” said Eduardo Undurraga, public health specialist, assistant professor University of Pontificia Católica de Chile, said.

The government tries to get vaccines closest to people, set up vaccination sites at universities or stadiums. The Ministry of Health publishes a schedule that states “who is eligible to receive vaccines on which day”, without an appointment. National agencies easily track when and where everyone’s vaccination is given and the timing of the second shot. Residents are encouraged to use the hashtag #YoMeVacuno (# I have been vaccinated) on social media after receiving vaccines.

Elderly people line up to vaccinate Covid-19 of the pharmaceutical company Sinovac, China, in Santiago. Image: AFP

Roberto Orellana Ovalle, manager of a hospital living in the suburbs of Santiago, says the vaccination process in Chile is orderly, fast and efficient. He just got a second shot, rest assured his grandmother in his hometown is also being vaccinated.

Pediatrician Joxelin Flores Taborda, Santiago, says vaccines bring hope. Her patients are children, most of whom do not get worse after infection with the virus. But many of Flores’s colleagues had to treat the elderly. Like many doctors and doctors, they spent a year exhausted from the pandemic.

“We don’t know if it’s over yet. But at least hope is tangible. It’s something you can feel,” she said.

Buying strategy from all sources

Chile reported its first case of nCoV infection on March 3 last year. A few weeks later, officials began planning the vaccination. Ministries ranging from Science, Technology, Health to International Affairs are working together to find safe and effective vaccines. The original idea was to have as many vaccines as possible, based on technology ranging from individual manufacturers as quickly as possible.

“They focus on diversity early on. They look at Western products, consider Chinese vaccines and join Covax,” said Katherine Bliss, senior fellow in global health policy at the Research Center. Strategy and International Studies (CSIS), comments.

Chile are betting on multiple doors, making deals when the effectiveness and safety of the vaccine have yet to be confirmed. “They buy from different mechanisms and are ahead of their time,” said Arachu Castro, President of Public Health at the Samuel Z. Stone Endowed center.

“The government buys more vaccines than it needs to supply people, of course they have been criticized for restricting other countries’ access to vaccinations. But for sure for the Chileans, this is an advantage. “, he added.

People were vaccinated against Covid-19 at a stadium.  Photo: AFP

People were vaccinated against Covid-19 at a stadium. Image: AFP

Chile opens its doors to pharmaceutical companies to phase 3 clinical trials, including Sinovac, China’s CanSino, America’s Johnson & Johnson and Britain’s AstraZeneca.

“This gives the vaccine experience of different companies, as well as an advantage when negotiating to buy,” said Katherine Bliss.

As of March 1, according to the Ministry of Finance, Chile has successfully negotiated 14 million doses of vaccine with Sinovac (has received nearly 10 million doses); 10 million doses from Pfizer (received approximately 700,000 doses), 4 million doses from AstraZeneca and another 4 million doses from Johnson & Johnson.

Chile is also a member of Covax – the World Health Organization’s (WHO) equitable vaccine distribution initiative, which is set to receive 7.6 million doses of vaccine through this mechanism. The government is in further talks with the Gamaleya Institute in Russia to buy the Sputnik V vaccine.

Chile buys vaccines from many sources, everywhere, not to be influenced by politics.

“One of the most important things is that politics is never considered. It all depends on science, technology,” Deputy Minister Paula Daza said.

Seasoned vaccination experience

Chile’s population is not large, but scattered across more than 4,800 km of the country, along the west coast of South America. Some areas are rural, remote areas. In order to get vaccines into the hands of each person, the government relies on profound experience before that.

Chile has a public and private health model that has been criticized for creating inequality. But the primary care network plays a role in the backbone of the Covid-19 vaccination campaign. Public clinics that exist across the country provide quick connections to remote communities.

The National Immunization Program dates back a century, from the late 1800s to fighting smallpox. Chile has been vaccinated against seasonal flu since the 1980s, having given emergency vaccines in response to natural disasters, said Magdalena Bastías, representative of the Inter-American Health Organization.

Chile's Ministry of Health has sent medical staff to vaccinate residents who cannot travel to public places.  Photo: AP

Chile’s Ministry of Health has sent medical staff to vaccinate residents who cannot travel to public places. Image: AP

That infrastructure and experience allowed Chile to launch vaccinations from day one.

“Once the vaccine arrives, we immediately distribute it to the people effectively. People understand and believe in our previous successes, which is also extremely important,” said Rafael Araos, anti-Covid scientific advisor. -19 under the Chilean Ministry of Health, stated.

In addition to public clinics, the government set up mobile vaccination booths in commercial centers, universities, football fields, … The country currently has 1,400 points.

Basically, Chile had achieved its original goal of vaccinating 5 million people by the end of March. But the country was still in the early days of the campaign. Despite many purchase and sale contracts, the amount of vaccine delivered is not enough for the entire population. The country is also struggling to contain the pandemic as the number of new cases is about 5,000 per day, the highest in months.

Thuc Linh (Follow Vox)


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