First Pfizer vaccines arrive in Chile, doctors have to be vaccinated first

SANTIAGO (Reuters) – The first 10,000 doses of a 10 million order of Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine reached Chile on Thursday, and vaccinations of health workers in the hardest hit sectors began immediately.

Chile is the first South American country to start vaccinating against COVID. Mexico received 3,000 doses of the vaccine on Wednesday, Costa Rica was due to receive doses of Pfizer on Thursday, while Argentina expected the first doses of the Russian vaccine Sputnik COVID-19 on the same day.

According to a statement by the Presidency, the cans arrived at Santiago Airport just before 7 a.m. local time (1000 GMT) on Christmas Eve from Pfizer’s manufacturing center, the city of Puurs, Belgium.

The shipment consisted of two small boxes, each containing 23 kg of dry ice to keep them at the required ultra-cold temperatures, and 13 kg of syringes loaded with vaccine.

The boxes were brought to a logistics center in the capital, Santiago, by police helicopter. The vaccinations should start later in the morning.

Chile is one of the countries in Latin America with the largest number of bilateral agreements with pharmaceutical companies, including agreements with AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Sinovac and the global vaccine distribution system COVAX.

Authorities plan to vaccinate 80% of Chile’s 19 million people by the first half of next year.

The Pfizer BioNtech vaccine in two doses will be distributed to health workers in hospitals in Santiago on Thursday. Health workers in the southern provinces of Araucania, BioBio and Magallanes will be vaccinated from Christmas onwards.

President Sebastian Pinera said it was a “happy moment” after a difficult year in Chile marked by intense, sometimes violent, anti-government protests that began in October 2019, then the March coronavirus outbreak and related ones economic consequences.

Pinera said the vaccine is “free and voluntary” and approved by both local and international health authorities. “When someone vaccinates, they not only protect themselves, but also their loved ones, their community and the country,” he said.

Reporting by Aislinn Laing; Adaptation by Mark Heinrich