The first doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine will arrive in Costa Rica on Wednesday night, President Carlos Alvarado announced.
Costa Ricans will begin receiving the vaccine on Thursday.
“The vaccine getting here today — one of the first countries in Latin America to get it — is enormous news,” said Health Minister Daniel Salas. “It’s a light in a year that has been so full of darkness.
“But it’s not that we’re getting the vaccine and we have beaten the pandemic. We are at the beginning of a long process, to build a house of immunity, but it will be constructed little by little.”
The National Commission of Vaccination and Epidemiology, part of the Health Ministry, has indicated the priority for vaccination will be as follows:
- Staff and residents at retirement or nursing homes.
- First responders, including health personnel.
- Costa Rica’s older population, defined here as those ages 58 and up.
- People with risk factors, including hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, respiratory illness, kidney disease and obesity, among others.
- Teachers and other staff within the Education Ministry (MEP).
- Imprisoned people and judicial staff.
- Workers for the 911 service.
- Health science students and related technicians in clinical fields.
- People ages 40-57 without any of the aforementioned risk factors but whose work puts them in contact with others. This includes laborers in agriculture, construction, service industries, etc.
President Alvarado and other high-ranking government authorities will receive the vaccine in accordance to where they fall in the above prioritization list.
The vaccine will not be obligatory, authorities said Wednesday.
Costa Rica and Pfizer-BioNTech have an agreement for 3 million doses of the vaccine, enough for 1.5 million people. The Central American country also has a deal with AstraZeneca and is a member of the COVAX facility.
Costa Rica hopes to vaccinate 3 million people by the end of 2021. This would cover 80% of the country’s adult population, including everyone with known risk factors.