The vaccination process that Argentina faces is historic. The first batch of 300,000 doses of Sputnik V arrived from Russia on December 24 and, after distribution in each jurisdiction, began to be inoculated at 9 on Tuesday and, from there, at a continuous rate. In a coordinated and simultaneous manner in all the provinces, the Strategic Vaccination Plan began with the immunization of health personnel who, since the pandemic began, faced more risks. Now, the first obstacle of access to technology solved, the main challenge is logistical.
Leticia Ceriani, Undersecretary of Information Management, Permanent Education and Supervision of the Ministry of Health of the Province of Buenos Aires, describes it as follows: “The campaign started on Tuesday and we are very happy. Of course there were and will be obstacles that we will have to overcome and things to adjust. We had meetings with hospital directors to calibrate logging and uploading data. Unlike Tuesday, Wednesday they worked much better. We are also improving the notification system and schedules so that people who have an assigned shift know when to get vaccinated. These are things that have been polished overnight, ”says the official.
Then, it details other countermarches that must be taken into account, that will be resolved and that are common to all provinces. “Although health workers are trained in vaccination, they have never faced a campaign of such magnitude. Because of the number of people they will have to inject as well as the specific issues of this vaccine: cold, conservation, how long it can be at room temperature without spoiling. Extra complexities that require teams to adjust as the campaign progresses ”, he explains.
Of the 24 jurisdictions, due to its demographic size, Buenos Aires is the province that faces the greatest challenge. In this regard, Ceriani points out: “We started with the health personnel of 110 hospitals, distributed in 89 municipalities. Starting next week, the municipalities whose hospitals have not yet received their doses will be incorporated in order to cover the 135 municipalities in the province. Sputnik V is being received by workers from the institutions themselves, as well as those who offer their services privately, ”he warned. Then he completed: “We perform segmentation to establish priorities. In the Federal Register of Health Professionals we have identified 250 thousand people and we have received 123 thousand doses. By mid-January we will receive the other batch of vaccines and we will be able to complete the total number of people dedicated to priority activities ”. In parallel, Buenos Aires encourages the registration of all people on the Vacunatepba site. It is the page on which all Buenos Aires residents must be registered, regardless of whether they belong to risk groups or not. The objective is that when the time comes for them to be vaccinated, from that record, they can be assigned a shift. To date, there are more than 470 thousand registered.
In CABA received 23,100 doses of Sputnik V. Gabriel Battistella, Undersecretary of Primary, Ambulatory and Community Care of the Ministry of Health of CABA, comments: “We started with very good expectations, there are already 17 hospitals that are vaccinating in parallel. In the City of Buenos Aires, the critical area related to the item is made up of 22,668 people and we will be able to cover the segment with the initial batch of vaccines that arrived. So far, the doses have already been applied to 1500 individuals “.
Along these lines, he cites the setbacks that arose: “We had set up an infrastructure for a larger application procedure. Starting with fewer vaccines served as an exercise to avoid making mistakes. What does have to be corrected and we have already detected is that the people who vaccinate get used to the fact that the blisters cannot be outside the freezer for a long time (it does not last more than 30 minutes) ”. And it continues with a phenomenon to reverse: “There were four or five vaccinations that at approximately 5.30 pm (at 6 pm the inoculation day ends) they opened the bottle containing five doses and realized that they only had three or four people to vaccinate. Doses that are not used at the moment must be discarded. From now on, the vials will not be opened without the certainty that there are at least five people to inject. ”
The short-term objective is to reach the staff of 37 hospitals (17 public and 20 private) as the first stage of the gradual plan that the portfolio managed by Fernán Quirós arranged for the City. The first to receive it are, according to the general rule, the health workers of the first line and the distribution will be proportional to the number of individuals that are part of the risk group in each institution (intensivists, guard personnel, laboratories in frequent contact with samples of covid and ambulances who transport infected people). Without exception, all people who apply the Sputnik dose will be evaluated through epidemiological monitoring to analyze their evolution over time..
The Strategic Vaccination Plan is in charge of the Ministry of Health and includes the participation of the health portfolios of the 24 jurisdictions, through the Federal Health Council. The procedure will be in stages; vaccination is voluntary and regardless of whether or not the individual had covid. As vaccines and logistics are defined as finite resources, the government established – according to other international reference frameworks – the priority to receive the doses in relation to the risk per exposure and the strategic function. Along these lines: those who are being vaccinated with Sputnik V are the members of the health personnel. Then will come the people who work in the armed and security forces; and teachers and non-teachers (initial, primary and secondary), a key population to be able to comply with the regular schedule of classes in 2021. At the same time, other strategic populations will be taken into account for the following stages: adults over 70 years and elderly residents long-stay homes; adults from 60 to 69 years of age and, finally, adults from 18 to 59 years of age from groups at risk. Likewise, it will also be surveyed if they are individuals who live in popular neighborhoods, if they are people in the street, from native peoples, deprived of liberty, migrants and university teachers.
Hopes amidst the emergency
“The beginning of vaccination has implied a historic moment for the country and for the planet. More and more nations have started their campaigns and, fortunately, Argentina is no stranger. Months ago, a part of the health personnel was a little reluctant to mass inoculation. Some surveys indicated that only 60% wanted to be vaccinated. In recent days, that percentage has changed dramatically and today it is palpable in the same hospitals and centers, “says Daniela Hozbor, a reference to the Advisory Committee of the Ministry of Health and the Vaccine Safety Commission, both from the province of Buenos Aires. And he continues: “Precisely, these days the members of the health personnel who are most at risk and in contact with danger receive their dose. After 21 days they will have the second dose that will arrive in January along with the rest to continue with the campaign in a timely manner. Once the immunization of health personnel has been completed, it will be expanded to the other groups that continue in the order of priority ”, highlights Hozbor, biochemist and Principal Investigator of Conicet at the Institute of Biotechnology and Molecular Biology of La Plata.
Mass vaccination unfolds when the emergency situation deepens. Gone was the marked decline in cases that seemed to be consolidating in recent months. Without going that far, a new record was reached on Tuesday: 11,650 cases and 151 deaths. The mass gatherings – much more so during holidays and work holidays – and the relaxation of care – in the use of the chinstrap and social distance – are the aspects that concern the government the most, especially because the summer is just beginning and the second wave could be more severe towards fall and winter.
The context, however, is better than expected. At the same time as the richest countries in the world, Argentina was able to obtain a good number of doses to start its inoculation procedure at scale. Some reader will think that 300 thousand are very few if one takes into account that the local population is close to 45 million. It is true, but it must be taken into account that other neighbors in the region such as Mexico and Chile –only– received 3 and 10,000 doses, respectively, of the Pfizer / BioNTech formula. In total, the national government secured the purchase of 51 million doses. To the 300 thousand that arrived on Thursday, 4.7 million will be added that will arrive in the first days of January and 15 million more in February. On Wednesday, Kirill Dimitriev, the director of the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) and the leading reference in financing the manufacture of the Russian variant, in conversation with the Bloomberg news agency, pointed out that Argentina “will have its second installment on time. , which is in January, and basically we will follow exactly the schedule that we agreed with them. ”
Then, to the 20 million of Sputnik V, in March the 22.4 million of AstraZeneca / Oxford will be added. The remaining 9 million will be received from the Covax platform, the global access fund that is led by the World Health Organization and whose creation endorsement was signed by 172 nations.
Another good news comes from the United Kingdom and is that, starting next Monday, the variant developed by the University of Oxford and the AztraZeneca Laboratory will begin to be applied. The health regulator authorized the emergency use for a formula that obtained an average effectiveness (since two different lines of research were combined) of 70%. Argentina is particularly interested in this novelty because, as expected, by mid-March the 22.4 million doses that the government acquired from the British company could arrive. It should be noted that the active substance is manufactured by the local mAbxience laboratory, of the Insud group led by the local businessman Hugo Sigman, and that the production is then sent to Mexico for packaging and distribution throughout Latin America, with the exception of Brazil. The next few weeks will be key.