How Chile’s Vaccination Program Winning the Race Against Covid-19
Chile’s vaccination program is currently holding as the most effective globally. The vaccination campaign started in early February. Since then, Chile has now administered around 5 million doses of vaccines. Chile has joined the top five countries in the world vaccination league, behind Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and the UK. This means that at least one shot has been given to about a quarter of its entire population, which is a total of 19 million. Chile effectively outranked much of the globe. By June, the country targets to deliver at least one dose to 15 million people or 80% of its entire population.
Since February, Chile has been administering more than 100,000 shots almost every day, and by the third week of March, the number has tripled. The success of Chile can be attributed to good planning and wise use of resources to execute bilateral agreements with vaccine producers.
Chile prioritized getting vaccines and was in talks with China, United Kingdom, and the United States. It also participated in Covax, an initiative that supports the development and fair distribution of 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines before 2021 ends. The Covax effort aims to ensure that all countries have access to vaccines, regardless of GDP. Chile also joined the phase 3 clinical trials of multiple vaccines. This gave the country leverage in procuring doses.
However, it is not sufficient to merely possess the vaccines. The effectiveness of the campaign also heavily relies on the manner in which the vaccination programs are conducted. Chile’s vaccination program executed utilize existing health infrastructures and implementing the framework of a century-old tradition of mass immunization campaigns. The agile primary health care system and the existing electronic records helped speed up the process of organizing a successful vaccination campaign.
Chile’s vaccination program takes place at universities and stadiums, making vaccination programs largely accessible to a huge amount of people. Chile’s Ministry of Health also produces a calendar that shows who’s eligible for a vaccine and what day they can be accommodated. It also has a national immunization registry that allows easier tracking of the date when people got their vaccines and the date they need to be administered the second dose. It also has a robust social media campaign where citizens post #YoMeVacuno (“I get vaccinated”) cards.
Chile experienced a sudden rise in the number of infections during fall and winter. It led to a tight lockdown since the health care system of Chile was near exhaustion. Unfortunately, Chile’s most vulnerable populations were hit the most by the pandemic. This caused the popularity of its government to be lessened. However, Chile’s vaccination program occurred simultaneously as the country experienced a huge spike in its coronavirus cases.
Still, the vaccines offered hope for the citizens since they were found to be orderly, efficient, and rapid. This is because the government had a proactive approach in procuring vaccines. They planned to acquire various vaccines which relied on different technologies. They joined various ventures to secure vaccines for their citizens.
Chile Vaccine Procurement Process
Chile invested in vaccines even before the confirmation of their safety and efficacy way ahead of time. However, since they purchased vaccines more than what was needed for their population, they have been arraigned by some since this move limited other countries’ access to the vaccines. However, it is seen as an advantage for the Chilean citizens.
Chile’s Ministry of Finance has mentioned that the country is expecting 14 million doses with Sinovac, 10 million doses from Pfizer/BioNTech, 4 million from AstraZeneca, and 4 million one-shot vaccines from Johnson & Johnson.
Since Chile is a contributor to Covax, it is also expecting 7.6 million doses through this initiative. The Covax effort is delivering free vaccines to low-income countries, but contributors also have access to the vaccine portfolio of Covax.
The country put away political considerations and implemented an agnostic vaccine diplomacy approach. It signed contracts with different manufacturers, having a less political approach. It is also worthy to note that Chile significantly invested in procuring the China-made Sinovac vaccines. Since many high-income nations were not engaging in deals for the Sinovac vaccine, Chile was given better access and priority.
It is clear that the mass prefers the COVID-19 vaccines made in Europe or the United States over those made in China or Russia, especially since there have been doubts regarding the efficacy of Sinovac vaccines. Still, many agree that the Sinovac vaccine will still save many lives.
Previous Experience in Immunization Programs
In order to transport the vaccines all over Chile, the country used its experience with its previous mass immunization programs. It also utilized the public primary health care system of the country.
Despite having a hybrid public-private health care model, which has been criticized for creating care inequalities, its public primary-health care network has proven effective in the country’s COVID-19 vaccination program.
Several public clinics are situated in various locations in the country, which helped the country carry out previous vaccination campaigns. Since the 1980s, the country has consistently practiced launching agile vaccination programs as a response to outbreaks. This infrastructure enabled Chile to be prepared to launch the Covid-19 vaccination program.
Aside from public health clinics, the country now has around 1,400 vaccination centers. Chile’s vaccination program established their administering centers in soccer stadiums, universities, markets, and drive-through centers.
Chile also has a national immunization registry. This allows officials to keep track of everyone’s vaccination status since every citizen is on the system. It shows when a person needs to get doses and the kind of vaccine that was used, which makes it easier for Chileans to acquire the second dose.
The vaccine rollout of Chile is also being commended for being organized and orderly. The level of prioritization was from front-line health care workers, elderly people, and educators, and then it descends in age from there. It assigns each day of the week to a certain age group. For example, on Wednesday, people who are 55 and 54 are eligible.
Other countries in Latin America are far from the success rate of Chile. In Brazil, only 4% of its population were vaccinated, and in Argentina, around 3%.
Still, Chile has yet to vaccinate its entire population since it does not yet possess all the doses needed. The country has already vaccinated more than 20 percent of its population. However, the new COVID-19 cases in Chile amount to around 5,000 per day. The government is trying to mitigate the numbers by advocating the use of masks and social distancing.
Chile’s vaccination program is also being met with skepticism in other parts of the world, but this is not an issue for Chile since it has a longstanding tradition of strong vaccination programs. More than 72 percent of Chilean respondents reported that they would get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Chile’s Other Vaccination Efforts
Despite Chile being the leader in vaccination in Latin America, the slow vaccination campaigns of its neighboring countries will make it harder to mitigate the disease, especially since multiple variants have mutated recently. To aid in Ecuador and Paraguay’s vaccination efforts, Chile donated 20,000 Sinovac vaccines to each country.
In December, Antarctica reported having a COVID-19 outbreak, the last continent to do so. As a response, Chile’s vaccination program extended all the way to Antarctica. It conducted vaccination programs to Chilean armed forces and researchers stationed in the continent. This vaccination program conducted by Chile in Antarctica was deemed timely and effective by several officials.
One of the methods to which Chile attributes its successful vaccination campaign lies in its storage method. The primary vaccine being administered in Chile is the Sinovac vaccine. While the Pfizer vaccine requires storage in extremely cold units with -70 degrees in temperature, Sinovac requires simple storage solutions. Since Chile is a long country, the simplicity of the storage mechanism required by Sinovac allowed vaccines to be dispatched in farther areas from Arica to Tierra del Fuego. Sinovac vaccines only require a temperature from 2 to 8 degrees Celsius. Due to the national immunization programs already in place, the health care centers no longer need to procure expensive medical-grade storage refrigerators.
Vaccine Transport and Storage Monitoring
Ensuring Effective Administration of Vaccines
Vaccines are by nature is temperature-sensitive due to the protein part of their composition. In order to ensure the potency of the vaccines, the temperature must be maintained throughout its entire transport from manufacturer to delivery. Therefore, proper vaccine monitoring equipment must be installed to ensure their effective delivery.
One provider of reliable temperature monitoring equipment is AKCP. AKCP offers temperature and humidity sensors, wireless sensors that are easy to install, and differential pressure for sterile areas. These features enable the effective monitoring and protection of time- and temperature-sensitive drugs and vaccines throughout transport and storage.
Ultimately, the success of a vaccination program depends on multiple factors like government response, effective monitoring, and reliable equipment. All these combined and considered will prove to be an effective way to combat the COVID-19 disease.