Ecuador signs agreement with Sinovac for 2 million COVID-19 vaccine: minister

QUITO, Feb 25 (Reuters) - The Ecuadorian government said on Thursday it had negotiated the purchase of 2 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines with Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinovac, which would allow authorities to start a mass inoculation process in the coming weeks.

The Andean country began a pilot phase of vaccinations in January with doses of the Pfizer vaccine for medical personnel and elderly people in nursing homes, but has had delays in acquiring more doses.

“One million will arrive in March and the other (shipment) in April,” Health Minister Juan Carlos Zevallos told reporters.

With the Sinovac vaccine deal, the government now expects to receive around 20 million doses this year, enough to immunize 60% of the population over 18 years of age.

The minister said that this month about 34,000 doses of Pfizer will also arrive, and starting in April, another 290,000 will arrive from the COVAX initiative, a program led by the World Health Organization (WHO).

About 780,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine are slated to arrive in May as part of a bilateral negotiation.

The Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Sinovac vaccines have all been authorized for use, Zevallos said.

Ecuador has registered about 279,000 infections and more than 10,800 deaths from the coronavirus. (Reporting by Alexandra Valencia; Writing by Sarah Kinosian; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)