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We will embrace again: vaccination against COVID-19 in Colombia opens hope for Latin America

UN News
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With the arrival of the first vaccines of the COVAX mechanism, the UN initiative for the equitable distribution of immunizations worldwide, a path of hope opens in the Latin American country to prevent the disease, save lives and advance in the safe economic activation.

"A year ago I did not see my family or my partner," says Alejandra Bohórquez, a physiotherapist at the Zipaquirá Regional Hospital in charge of the rehabilitation of people who enter the Intensive Care Unit due to complications from Covid-19, while getting ready to receive the vaccine against the disease. "Although I must maintain security measures, this is an important step to get closer to my loved ones," he says.

With the arrival of the first vaccines of the COVAX mechanism, the initiative of the World Health Organization to guarantee an equitable distribution of immunizations throughout the world, and the start of vaccination on February 17, a hope has opened in Colombia , which is expected to be the beginning of the end of the pandemic.

The country has thus become one of the first in the hemisphere to receive the vaccines from the Covax initiative .

This was made possible because Colombia is ready for introduction and successful deployment to apply the vaccines.

According to the report of the Ministry of Health and Social Protection, in the first 48 hours of vaccination against COVID-19, 7,854 members of the health personnel who are on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19 received the first dose of the vaccine against the virus.

“We still have a long way to go. In four or five days we could meet the goal of vaccinating 50,000 health workers with this first wave of vaccines, "said the Minister of Health, Fernando Ruiz Gómez.

The work of the UN

For several months the Pan American Health Organization , WHO branch on the continent, has worked with the Colombian health authorities in the enlistment phase , through directive guidance and advice documents, which has served as a reference for the development of the vaccination plan and the establishment of priorities in the use of vaccines.

Colombia is one of 31 countries that are using the platform developed together with the WHO, UNICEF and the World Bank to assess their readiness for the introduction of vaccines.

According to the representative in Colombia of the UN agency for health in the Americas, Gina Tambini, the arrival of vaccines is a part of the response that, together with measures for personal protection and physical distancing, will contribute to the reduction of COVID-19 cases and deaths .

“Efforts to cut the chains of transmission, through testing, case and contact tracing, and citizen engagement, must continue. Hence the importance of the articulated work that is coordinated in the Health Cluster, co-led by the Ministry of Health and Social Protection and the Pan American Health Organization, and in which United Nations agencies, funds and programs participate. NGOs, National Institutions and other members ”, he indicated.

Coordination on a single platform

In Cundinamarca, for example, they were organized into a single network of service providers, in which all municipal leaders, local health authorities, and health-providing institutions participate.

For Diego Alejandro García, pediatrician and COVID-19 manager in this department, the articulated and integrated work has allowed, among others, to maintain coverage above 95% in the regular vaccination program during the pandemic .

“With the arrival of the first 1770 doses, the simultaneous immunization of health personnel working in 22 intensive care units in 13 municipalities of the department was prioritized. The population of the department has historically been committed to vaccination and a similar behavior is expected with the COVID-19 vaccine ”.

In addition to increasing response capacity and territorial preparedness, collaboration between the members of the Health Cluster is **key to increasing capacity in humanitarian response ** and reaching the most vulnerable populations , as well as in monitoring, evaluation, documentation of lessons learned and to jointly address the challenges that vaccination brings.

"Joining efforts, prioritizing and implementing interventions at the national level and with a large territorial deployment, will save lives and help the country move forward in safe economic reactivation, " said Jessica Faieta, UN resident coordinator in Colombia.

In fact, Colombia has extensive experience in this field, thanks to its successful regular vaccination program , with achievements that include eradicating polio and remaining free from endemic measles transmission.

"Now with the arrival of the vaccine against COVID-19, which is an unprecedented scientific feat, it is expected to immunize 70% of the population and thus achieve collective immunity, necessary so that in the near future we can embrace each other again " concluded Dr. Tambini.

* In total, 366 countries and territories in the Americas participate in the COVAX mechanism: Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominica, Ecuador, El Salvador , Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, British Virgin Islands, Jamaica, Mexico, Montserrat, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Dominican Republic, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Lucia, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay and Venezuela.