Colombia to receive 1.7 million doses of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in February

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombia will receive its first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines developed by Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE in February, the country health ministry said on Monday.

FILE PHOTO: A vial of the Pfizer vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is seen as medical staff are vaccinated at Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan, Israel December 19, 2020.REUTERS/Amir Cohen

The 1.7 million doses are enough to vaccinate about 850,000 people as each requires two doses. First in line for inoculations will be healthcare workers and those over 80 years old, officials said in a statement.

The Andean country, whose daily confirmed number of new coronavirus cases hit a record hit of 13,990 on Saturday, said last week it signed deals with Pfizer and AstraZeneca Plc to provide 10 million doses each of their COVID-19 vaccines.

The country, which has recorded more than 1.5 million coronavirus cases and over 40,000 deaths, will receive an additional 20 million doses through the COVAX mechanism, giving it enough vaccine to inoculate some 20 million people.

Colombia will provide COVID-19 vaccines for free under its national vaccination plan, but is also preparing rules to allow people to purchase the vaccine privately, the ministry said in a statement.

People between the ages of 60 and 79 and those with chronic health conditions that put them at higher risk of severe COVID-19 will form the second tranche of people to be vaccinated, Health Minister Fernando Ruiz said.

Members of the general population - including people in the military, teachers and those who care for others - will follow, Ruiz added.

“All of this plan we are looking to carry out in 2021,” he said in the statement.

The country will not vaccinate those under 16 or pregnant women because not enough data on the effect of vaccines in those populations is available yet, the ministry added.

Colombian officials have urged people to avoid peak shopping times and to celebrate holidays with only their household, to keep virus transmission down as they await the vaccines.

Capital Bogota on Monday returned to restrictions that allow just one person per household to go shopping and restrict entrance to stores and restaurants.

Reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Bill Berkrot