Colombia in talks on Sputnik, other COVID-19 vaccines: health minister

BOGOTA (Reuters) – Colombia is in talks with Russia’s Gamaleya Institute about acquiring doses of the Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine, its health Minister said on Monday, but is not rushing a deal because of existing vaccine provision deals with pharmaceutical companies.

FILE PHOTO: A view shows vials during the production of Gam-COVID-Vac, also known as Sputnik-V, vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at a facility of BIOCAD biotechnology company in Saint Petersburg, Russia December 4, 2020. REUTERS/Anton Vaganov

The Andean country already has deals with a raft of vaccine producers and the World Health Organization-backed COVAX mechanism to secure over 61 million vaccine doses, enough to inoculate some 35.2 million people.

Colombia is set to receive vaccines developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, as well as AstraZeneca, Moderna and Sinovac.

“We have a confidentiality agreement with (Russia’s Gamaleya Institute),” Health Minister Fernando Ruiz told Reuters in a telephone interview. “We’re talking with them, but really with the quantity we have assured right now…we don’t have an urgency to proceed.”

There is no estimate yet of how many Sputnik V doses Colombia could receive in a potential deal, Ruiz added.

He said Colombia also has confidentiality agreements with China’s Sinopharm and Cansino as well as India’s Serum Institute.

The South American country is slated to begin a mass vaccination campaign on Feb. 20 and hopes to inoculate 70% of its population in 2021 in a bid to achieve herd immunity against the coronavirus.

But the government is concerned about vaccine uptake, Ruiz said. “Surveys show that a little less than 40% of the population has doubts about vaccination. We hope that once the process begins, all that will change.”

Although Colombia previously said it would not vaccinate undocumented immigrants, the health ministry is now developing a plan to provide inoculations to migrants with help from COVAX, it said in a statement.

Colombia is home to some 1.72 million Venezuelans who have fled economic and political turmoil in the neighbouring country. Nearly 1 million of those migrants are classed as “irregular” by migration authorities.

Source: Read Full Article