Wednesday, December 29, marks the first anniversary of a key date in Argentina: on the same day one year ago, the country began its Strategic Vaccination Plan against Covid-19.
With more than 75 million doses applied nationwide since then, the country is once again facing a strong growth of infections, boosted by the circulation of the Delta and Omicron variants. On Tuesday, the government confirmed 33,902 new cases. In response, Argentina’s Health Ministry urged citizens to complete their vaccination schedules, if they have not already done so.
President Alberto Fernández assures that "if the problem of new infections did not become serious, it was because all Argentines had the opportunity to be vaccinated." He notes that the number of people in intensive care units and that fatalities remain at lower levels than during Argentina’s second wave of Covid-19, indicating that vaccines are effective in preventing hospitalisations and deaths.
Juan Carlos Cisneros, deputy director of the Hospital de Infecciosas Francisco Javier Muñiz in Buenos Aires, agrees with those thoughts, while observing that due to the increase in cases "the number of people coming for swabs is unstoppable." He remarked that thanks to the vaccines, the situation is not highly worrying. "If this had happened in the first wave, the health system would have collapsed," he said.
In Argentina, the first person to receive a coronavirus vaccine was Francisco Traverso, an intensive care physician at the Hospital Nacional Posadas in El Palomar, Buenos Aires Province. As outlined in the government’s health strategy, the first in line for immunisation were doctors and healthcare staff.
Dr Traverso was vaccinated with a shot of Sputnik V, the first vaccine to arrive in Argentina and with which the government kicked off its plan at the end of last year. On December 24, five days earlier, the first 300,000 doses had arrived in the country on a flight from Russia – a timely Christmas present, which was welcomed by a host of officials, including then-Cabinet chief Santiago Cafiero and then-health minister Ginés González García.
One year on, on December 24, 2021, with a shipment of 739,440 doses from Pfizer, Argentina has now taken delivery of more than 100 million doses of assorted vaccines.
According to the Health Ministry, 83 percent of the population have started their vaccination schedules and 70 percent have completed them. Among those aged over 18, 93.3 percent have received at least one dose and 82.8 percent have had two jabs.
For adolescents aged between 12 and 17 years of age, 79.7 percent of them have received a shot, with 58.9 percent fully vaccinated. The numbers stand at 61.8 percent and 36.9 percent respectively for young children (ages three to 11).
Last month, the Frente de Todos government confirmed details for the delivery of a third and additional ‘booster’ shots for citizens, to come five months after their second. Following the latest increase in numbers, this week officials announced waiting times would be trimmed to four months.
The Health Ministry says that it has enough vaccines for all additional and booster shots and it has begun to donate doses to countries “that have suffered unequal access to vaccines." Most recently, Argentina donated one million doses to Bolivia.