MS Risk Blog

How Chile was Able to Order Enough Doses to Vaccinate the Entire Population Twice against Covid

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It might seem that from a westernised perspective, the race to obtain COVID-19 vaccines has been won by western nations. Yet, together with the UK, Canada, the USA and the EU, Chile has secured large doses per capita as well. Chile has ordered up to 90 million vaccine doses, which are more than enough to completely immunize the population of 19.2 million people.

Most of the administered vaccines so far were acquired from Sinovac of China. However, Chile’s ambassador in London, David Gallagher, has helped the country to secure vaccinations from AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson as well as from the global vaccine-supply programme, Covax.

Since the end of Pinochet’s dictatorship in 2019, Chile has been immersed in a socio-political crisis. The following government of Sebastián Piñera came under strain following the demonstrations and riots that exploded in October in reaction to Chile’s rising levels of economic and political injustice. Yet his more centrist approach to securing vaccinations has the ability to benefit both the country’s economy and its political situation prior to the 2020 elections.

Analysts have praised Chile’s foresight in negotiating vaccine agreements ahead of time, arranging clinical trials in exchange for earlier supplies at a lower cost. Before the start of the pandemic, several vaccine manufacturers were already in good relations with Chilean universities and hospitals.

Chile has provided far more vaccines than it needs to vaccinate the whole population. It aims to vaccinate 5 million citizens by April and 15 million people, or about 80% of the country, by July. However, medical experts in Chile have concerns about the Chinese Sinovac’s jabs efficacy compared to other vaccines. Despite these concerns, they emphasise the effectiveness of Chile’s long-standing vaccination programme, which has had widespread public support since its inception in the 1970s.

Frontline staff and the elderly have been given priority for the vaccination scheme, which was delivered free of charge. The central administration has also helped to streamline the procedure, as opposed to other countries where local or provincial authorities have been left to do so.  Sinovac has been proven easy to distribute, especially to those isolated communities in unusually elongated territory, as it does not require to be stored at extremely low temperatures like some other vaccines.

The roll-out of the vaccine to the public is moving fast, having only begun in early February. The Chilean health sector has considerable expertise with mass immunization programs and a number of vaccination centres have been set up around the country to achieve this goal.

Chiles’ strong ability to secure enough vaccines might encourage neighbouring countries, which have not secured any vaccination schemes deal yet to do so. As a matter of fact, Uruguay will be the last South American country to start the vaccination plan.

Moreover, this might also encourage trade partners and new interested foreign investors to participate in the Chilean economy or engage more with the other Chilean economic sectors.

This vaccination campaign is supposed to help restore the economy after last year’s recession. For others, the main concern is what the effective introduction of the vaccine could mean for social cohesion in a country where tensions have been simmering since the protests that broke out in 2019.