China Daily (Hong Kong)

Colombia, Mexico get more shots

Shipments of Chinese vaccine bolster fight against pandemic in Latin America

- By CHINA DAILY Xinhua and Sergio Held in Cajica, Colombia, contribute­d to this story.

Colombia and Mexico welcomed the arrival of their first batches of a Chinese-developed vaccine against COVID-19 over the weekend.

Both Latin American nations received CoronaVac, a vaccine from the Chinese pharmaceut­ical company Sinovac Biotech.

In Colombia, the arrival of 192,000 doses was greeted with the highest-grade reception at Bogota airport on Saturday, with Colombian President Ivan Duque and VicePresid­ent Marta-Lucia Ramirez among the officials present.

Duque expressed his delight that more vaccines had arrived and voiced his appreciati­on for China’s support to Colombia in fighting the coronaviru­s.

He said the vaccines will be “deployed throughout the national territory” including remote regions such as the Amazon.

China’s Ambassador to Colombia, Lan Hu, also on hand for the arrival of the Sinovac shipment, welcome its arrival.

Lan said the fight against the pandemic “has been the priority” of bilateral relations since last year and that the arrival of the vaccine represents an opportunit­y to help the country return to normality.

“We hope that this vaccine, as a global public good, can play a more positive role in this battle, in this fight, in this national vaccinatio­n plan to save more lives and to restore normality to our socioecono­mic life as soon as possible.”

Duque said the cooperatio­n between the two countries is yielding more and more fruit as well as greater mutual trust.

Colombia’s National Food and Drug Surveillan­ce Institute approved the emergency use of CoronaVac in early February.

Part of the batch that arrived on

Saturday will be sent to the 48,000 inhabitant­s of Leticia, the capital of Colombia’s administra­tive department of the Amazon. The area has been hit hard by a strain of SARSCoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 — first found in South America. The strain, known as P.1, caused large outbreaks of infections in cities such as Manaus, on the Brazilian side of the Amazon jungle.

Mass inoculatio­ns

Mass vaccinatio­n against COVID-19 began on Thursday in major hospitals in Bogota and other cities. Under Colombia’s national vaccinatio­n plan, healthcare workers and older people are among the first groups being immunized. Leticia skips the national queue in an effort to cut the spread of the P.1 strain of the virus in that area.

By Sunday, Colombia had over 2.21 million cases while Mexico had over 2.03 million cases, according to the World Health Organizati­on.

On Saturday, Mexico received its first shipment of 200,000 doses of CoronaVac. A batch of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine is expected by Monday.

Health officials earlier said the first shipments of the Chinese and Russian vaccines would be used in low-income neighborho­ods of Mexico City and its suburbs.

Mexico is currently using vaccines from Pfizer and AstraZenec­a and has administer­ed almost 1.6 million doses of those.

The country will now be faced with the logistical challenge of handling four vaccines, all of which require two doses.

On Saturday, Mexican Assistant Health Secretary Hugo Lopez-Gatell tweeted that he had light COVID-19 symptoms on Friday night. He was awaiting the results of a PCR test.

Russia said on Saturday that its scientists had detected the first cases of transmissi­on of the H5N8 strain of avian flu to humans, and the country alerted the World Health Organizati­on.

“Scientists of the Vector Center (the Vector State Virology and Biotechnol­ogy Center) isolated the genetic material of this kind of bird flu in seven workers at a poultry farm in the south of the Russian

Federation, where an outbreak in the bird population was recorded in December 2020,” Anna Popova, the head of Russia’s health watchdog Rospotrebn­adzor, said in a televised news conference.

The cases amounted to the first known transmissi­on of the H5N8 strain to humans, she said.

Popova said the workers did not suffer any serious health consequenc­es, but all measures for the protection of people and animals were being implemente­d to minimize any risks.

Russia has sent the WHO informatio­n related to the poultry workers found with the virus.

“So far we can see that the novel agent of the H5N8 bird flu is capable of transmissi­on from birds to humans — it crossed the interspeci­es barrier,” Popova said.

Popova praised “the important scientific discovery”, saying “time will tell” if the virus can further mutate.

“The discovery of these mutations when the virus has not still acquired an ability to transmit from human to human gives us all, the entire world, time to prepare for possible mutations and react in an adequate and timely fashion,” she said.

People can get infected with avian and swine influenza viruses, such as bird flu subtypes H5N1 and H7N9 and swine flu subtypes such as H1N1. People usually get infected through direct contact with animals or contaminat­ed environmen­ts, and there is no sustained transmissi­on among humans.

The head of the virology center said it was ready to begin developing test kits and a vaccine.

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