Colombia COVID-19 vaccine plan may face delays, president says

BOGOTA, Feb 3 (Reuters) - Colombia’s plan to vaccinate over 35 million people against the coronavirus this year could face delays, President Ivan Duque said on Wednesday, even as he reiterated his confidence pharmaceutical companies will meet delivery deadlines.

The country said last week it had secured 61.5 million vaccine doses from a raft of pharmaceutical companies and via the World Health Organization-backed COVAX scheme. It plans to inoculate 70% of its 50 million people to reach herd immunity.

But in a midweek media briefing Duque recognized the process could face delays, including potential export limits placed on vaccines by other countries and a low uptake of shots amid circulating disinformation.

“Are there risks (to the roll-out)? Yes, without doubt risks exist,” Duque said.

Japan this week warned the European Union’s so-called export transparency mechanism had already affected its vaccine supply schedule.

Though the EU has not imposed curbs on vaccine exports, it reserves the right to do so if overseas shipments undermine its supplies.

Several European countries have reported vaccine deliveries will not meet supply expectations for February from U.S. company Moderna, which is set to provide Colombia with 10 million doses.

Like much of Latin America, Colombia is depending on foreign vaccine makers for COVID-19 vaccines. The Andean country has reported more than 2.1 million confirmed infections and 54,576 deaths.

The WHO’s regional arm said on Wednesday that Colombia had reported the highest incidence of cases in South America relative to its population over the past week.

Colombia must combat disinformation which urges people not to have the coronavirus shots, Duque said.

The government’s DANE statistics agency recently published a poll where 40% of adults said they were not interested in being inoculated.

Colombia is holding talks with further vaccine manufacturers, including Russia’s Gamaleya Institute, maker of the Sputnik V vaccine, Health Minister Fernando Ruiz said.

Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta Writing by Oliver Griffin Editing by Rosalba O’Brien