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LATIN AMERICA | 10-02-2021 10:46

Argentina approves Indian Covishield coronavirus vaccine

Argentina announces it has approved the emergency use of the Indian-made Covishield jab, as Peru begins vaccination programme.

Argentina announced Tuesday it has approved the emergency use of the Indian-made Covishield vaccine.

Health Minister Ginés González García signed a decree granting "emergency authorisation" for the use of the vaccine, produced by India's Serum Institute, which was published by ANMAT, Argentina's drug administration agency, in the Official Gazette.

The Covishield vaccine is essentially the same as the British developed AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine that previously received approval on December 30. 

Argentina has also approved the use of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine, having already received 820,000 doses.

The country began its immunisation programme on December 29 and has so far only used the Sputnik V vaccine, offering it to healthcare professionals and citizens aged over 60.

Unlike the Russian vaccine, Covishield can be stored at standard temperatures.

The decree said that the Indian-made vaccine "results from the development of the production process carried out by the Serum Institute of India in collaboration with the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca in the context of a technology transfer."

ANMAT concluded that "said transfer [of technology] does not impact the quality, safety and efficacy" of the product that has already been approved in 13 countries, including India.

The decree indicates that "there have been no serious adverse events nor have significant differences been identified in the efficacy observed in the different age groups that participated in clinical trials."

Argentina has recorded just under two million cases and over 49,000 deaths from Covid-19 among its 44 million population.

The government has contracts allowing for the provision of some 62 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines produced different laboratories, Ginés González recently said last week.

Latin America

In neighbouring Chile, the Health Ministry reported Tuesday that it had vaccinated more than one million people against the coronavirus, six days after launching a mass-vaccination campaign for the elderly. 

Elsewhere in the region, Peru on Tuesday began its own coronavirus immunisation programme just two days after receiving 300,000 vaccine doses from state-owned Chinese company Sinopharm.

The country has been hard hit by a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic sweeping Latin America.

It has recorded around 1.2 million cases and more than 42,000 deaths from Covid-19 among its population of 33 million.

Hospitals are overrun with almost 13,800 Covid patients while they have also reported a lack of oxygen to treat those with breathing problems.

Healthcare workers at several hospitals in the capital Lima were the first to receive the vaccine on Tuesday morning.

Armed Forces airplanes left the capital to take vaccines to the worst hit regions of the country, such as the jungle area of Huanuco, some 350 kilometres (220 miles) northeast of Lima.

Peru will receive another 700,000 doses of the Chinese vaccine on Sunday. It has agreed to purchase 38 million doses of the Sinopharm vaccine and another 20 million of the Pfizer/BioNTech one.

Other deals have been made to purchase 14 million AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccines and 13.2 million Covax jabs.

Authorities have yet to announce when immunization of the wider population will begin, but the country plans to vaccinate 26 million people.

The government of President Francisco Sagasti has received harsh criticism over the delays in unrolling an immunization program compared to neighbors Chile and Bolivia.

Sagasti himself was vaccinated Tuesday evening at a Lima hospital.

"Don't be afraid of the vaccine," he said, adding that he hoped all "Peruvians are vaccinated this year."

– TIMES/AFP

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