El Alto, Bolivia, 21 March 2021 (PAHO/WHO/UNICEF) - Bolivia today received 228,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX Facility, a global effort involving the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (Gavi), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), and the World Health Organization (WHO).
This arrival marks a historic step towards the goal of guaranteeing equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines worldwide, in what will be the largest vaccine procurement and supply operation in history. Today’s delivery is part of the first phase of doses for Bolivia, and more vaccines are expected to arrive in the country over the course of 2021. Through May, it is expected that the country will continue receiving doses until Bolivia has received its full allocation of vaccines: 672,000 from AstraZeneca and 92,430 from Pfizer-BioNtech, according to the first round of COVAX allocations.
The PAHO Revolving Fund is in charge of procuring COVID-19 vaccines for the countries under the COVAX Facility. In total, 228,000 doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine, manufactured by the Serum Institute of India (SII), were shipped from Mumbai, India. The vaccines that arrived today were taken from Miami to Santa Cruz, Bolivia on Transporte Aéreo Boliviano (TAB) flight 751, where they were loaded onto a Bolivian Air Force Hercules transport aircraft, which arrived at its final destination, the Diablos Negros unit’s air base in El Alto, around 16:00.
The PAHO/WHO Representative, Dr. Alma Morales Salinas, said, “It is a privilege for me to participate in this arrival of COVID-19 vaccines, because it means that more people will be protected against COVID-19.” She added, “We will continue to work with the country to support vaccination and all known public health measures which, together, can halt the spread of COVID-19, protect health services, and, most importantly, save lives.”
These first vaccines to arrive will be used to protect priority groups and those most at risk of developing severe cases of COVID-19, such as health workers and older adults. Bolivia is one of the ten countries in the Americas that are receiving free vaccines through the COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC).
Rafael Ramírez, the UNICEF Representative in Bolivia, said, “Today, we reaffirm our commitment to vaccine equity, and to keeping our promise to leave no one behind.”
Bolivia’s National Vaccination Plan
The National COVID-19 Vaccination Plan, prepared by the Ministry of Health and Sports as part of its national Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI), was designed according to international recommendations and the requirements for accessing the COVAX Facility. It is, therefore, a plan that has the seal of approval of leading international experts from COVAX.
Evaluation of the Bolivian immunization plan for the COVID-19 vaccine was key to the country being one of the four chosen to receive the first COVAX vaccines. The plan’s guiding principles include universal, free, and voluntary vaccination against COVID-19 for all Bolivians 18 years and older, according to a schedule determined by age groups.
Since the first case of COVID-19 was reported in the country in March 2020, Bolivia has recorded 262,941 cases of the disease and 12,028 deaths from the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
In a description of its objectives, the Bolivian vaccination plan states that “since COVID-19 is one of the leading causes of disease and death, and because of its impact on families and the community, it has become a priority in our country’s health policy.”
To tackle this challenge, the government of Bolivia decided to ensure equal, equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines nationwide, free of charge. To this end, not only were vaccines procured bilaterally, but also through the COVAX Facility, to obtain safe and effective vaccines that comply with international standards and those of the national regulatory authority.
The efforts of the country and its cooperation partners, such as PAHO/WHO and UNICEF, encompass every aspect of the vaccination plan, including the design of localized communication strategies with messages targeting different Bolivian populations, focusing on indigenous and rural communities, homeless people, migrants, and prisoners, as well as other priority and at-risk populations.
In 2021, COVAX aims to provide vaccines for at least 20 per cent of the population in each participating country worldwide. During this first round of vaccine allocation, all COVAX participating countries will receive enough doses to vaccinate between 2.2 per cent and 2.6 per cent of their populations. The only exceptions are Small Island Developing States, which due to their size will receive doses for between 16 per cent and 20 per cent of their population, due to the high logistical cost of delivering small shipments of vaccines.
Until vaccination is widespread in the population, basic public health measures will remain the cornerstone of pandemic response. For the public health authorities, this means continued diagnostic testing, contact tracing, isolation, assisted quarantine, and quality care. For individuals, it means continuing to practice social distancing, hand hygiene, use of masks, ventilation of closed spaces, and crowd avoidance.
COVAX, the vaccines pillar of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, is co-led by CEPI, Gavi, and WHO, working in partnership with UNICEF, as well as civil society organizations, vaccine manufacturers, the World Bank, and others.
In the Americas, the PAHO Revolving Fund is the procurement agent recognized by the COVAX Mechanism for countries of the Region.
Contacto para los medios
Sandra I Mallo OPS/OMS