Colombia on Tuesday gave the green light for the private sector to buy and distribute coronavirus vaccines under certain conditions, in a bid to expand the country's slow-moving immunisation campaign.
President Iván Duque said in his daily television address that after several studies, the Health Ministry had drafted a resolution "that enables the purchase [of vaccines] and the contribution of the private sector to the national vaccination plan."
Any party buying vaccines must be endorsed by the Health Ministry and guarantee delivery using their own logistics chains so as not to be a burden on the public sector. They must also abide by guidelines to ensure the most vulnerable sectors of the community are the first to receive the shots.
"This should not be a matter of business, intermediaries, or unknown persons... but rather be carried out through specialised distributors," Duque said.
With 50 million inhabitants, Colombia has vaccinated 3.8 million people with at least one dose in more than two months of its mass immunisation campaign.
On Tuesday, the country reached a new record of deaths (429) for the second day in a row, as a third wave of the pandemic threatens to swamp the hospital system.
Health Minister Fernando Ruiz said the private sector will be able to purchase vaccines as of Wednesday, but their distribution will only be allowed when the government advances to the third stage of vaccinations that includes people between 16 and 59 years old who are affected by some co-morbidity.
So far in Colombia, health personnel and adults over 80 have been immunised, and the campaign is currently focusing on people over 70. The current stage is the second, and will eventually cover people aged 60 and over, but it is not clear when it will be completed.