The Minister of Health, Carla Vizzotti, announced the binding agreement for the purchase of 20 million doses of Pfizer and this will allow Argentina to take an important step in the vaccination of the child and adolescent population because they will complement the doses of the Moderna vaccine that has already begun to be distributed in the provinces (see separate). These new vaccines would arrive before December, although it still remains to specify the logistical aspects and define when the first batches will land. In this way, the Government puts an end to the controversy established for months by the media and opposition politicians. In dialogue with Page 12, Vizzotti stated that “Pfizer always had the intention of signing the contract with Argentina and Argentina always had the intention of signing the contract with Pfizer. It is false that there was a more complicated situation behind it; It is false that this could have been done before because the agreements were not there; it is false that we received 13 million vaccines last December. What the opposition raises is counterfactual, I think everything was clearer. We have 42 million vaccines on our soil, there is no other reality than that ”, he says.

Later, the minister stressed the importance of the contract achieved. “The campaign is going very well and what happened today was a turning point. It is very nice what it feels like after achieving this, the satisfaction of having overcome all difficulties ”. And he added: “It really is something that from the first moment they wanted to do, but at no time had we been able to according to the legal framework that was in force prior to the DNU. The previous legal framework created a barrier that we were able to overcome. We brought the positions together so that the two parties could listen to each other and reach consensus”.

Vaccines for minors

The positive data to highlight is that the vaccine formula developed by the American company is currently one of the two that is being used in adolescents between 12 and 17 years of age. The other is Sinopharm, which is already used in China for the population of children and young people from 3 to 17 years old. The remainder that will drive the expansion of the Strategic Vaccination Plan against Covid is Modern. In this case, despite making a positive recommendation, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) has not yet finalized the formal approval, so it has not yet begun to be applied in the age group that goes from 12 to 17 years.

With the extension of vaccination to populations under 18 years of age, Argentina sees a promising horizon for September. If during the peak infections reached 33 thousand daily, at present an average of 12 thousand infections are reported each day, hospitalizations decrease markedly (4,155 compared to the maximum of 7,969 of ICU bed occupancy) and the average number of deaths (if the burdens corresponding to previous months are discounted, it is below 300) does the same.

The missing details

Defining “the logistical details” with Pfizer technology is no small procedure. The vaccine must be kept at a temperature of 70 degrees below zero, so it must necessarily be stored in special transporters. Likewise, it is one of the formulas with the highest reported effectiveness: compared to the Delta variant, as reported by the company, the effectiveness reaches 94 and 96 percent.

“Now we will deepen the dialogues to define the schedule to which the laboratory can commit itself so that 20 million vaccines begin to arrive in all of 2021. It is essential because it will expand the possibility of covering adolescents between 12 and 17 years old, plus beyond priority groups. From now on we will be polishing the conditions for receiving the vaccine, until the final agreement is signed, ”Vizzotti told this newspaper.

A diversified vaccination strategy

In this way, the country orients its vaccination strategy towards a more diversified portfolio of assets. In addition to Sputnik V, Sinopharm, AstraZeneca and Moderna, the Argentines will apply the doses of Pfizer and CanSino. Vizzotti announced that the government made the payment to guarantee the arrival of the first 200,000 doses of this last option: a formula made in China, single-dose and that could arrive in the next few days. The contract with CanSino implies the arrival of 5.4 million more vaccines.

It is worth noting that, to the vaccines that will continue to arrive (batches insured by contracts with Sputnik V, Sinopharm and AstraZeneca), must be added those in which the country participates in some link of production (mAbxience in AstraZeneca and Richmond in Sputnik V) and those that will be produced 100 percent in local territory (there are preclinical trials carried out by the National University of San Martín, the National University of La Plata and the Leloir Institute).

In this regard, the head of the health portfolio stated: “This is the largest vaccination in history, the challenge is immense due to the number of people to be vaccinated, with different doses, with different conservation, with different intervals at different ages. According to the calculation we made, with the vaccines we are applying, we exceeded by 105 percent the vaccination that our nation routinely carried out prior to the pandemic ”. Then he finished: “From a personal point of view, it generates an immense responsibility, we are going through all the obstacles one by one; The political decision of the President is as important as the immense work that each vaccinator and each vaccinator do from the smallest vaccinator ”.

Controversies over Pfizer

During the pandemic, Pfizer’s vaccine was positioned – like no other – as the axis of political dispute. In the middle of last year, Argentina lent its scientists and their installed capacities to carry out phase 3 clinical trials at the Military Hospital of CABA. However, although a priori it was believed that this could generate an advantage (in terms of rapid access to doses once the technology was authorized on North American soil), the situation was much more complex than previously believed.

“At the moment when we began to carry out the first negotiations, Between July and November 2020, all delivery schedules for all labs were estimates. None, including Pfizer, were able to meet initial commitments. There was no lack of will on the part of the companies, they just couldn’t. During all this time, we have worked uninterruptedly and we continued to insist on every negative answer, ”said Vizzotti.

The media and political opposition, in this sense, clung to a specific situation (the Pfizer vaccines did not arrive), although they filled it with distorting and distancing senses from reality. Meanwhile, government officials clarified that negotiations were ongoing with all laboratories. At a recent press conference in early June, Vizzotti noted: “Lower your tension and your obsession with Pfizer. Argentina wants to buy the vaccine from Pfizer and Pfizer wants to sell its vaccine to Argentina and we are working on that. It is absolutely false that Argentina has rejected a vaccine. They are not going to take an inch of our work from us ”.

On July 2, President Alberto Fernández signed a key DNU to regulate and update the legal framework that allowed Argentina to unlock the acquisition of vaccines from Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. The normative text reported the creation of a “Covid-19 Repair Fund” (with the aim of taking over the payment of compensation in the event that an inoculated person is injured); the elimination of the term “negligence” (as a liability assumption in the vaccine procurement law, which had already been identified as one of the main obstacles to negotiating with Pfizer); and, finally, the “sovereign immunity” of all State assets, with the exception of the royalties it receives for the exploitation of natural resources.

Through that open window, the doses of Moderna (3.5 million) donated by the White House arrived that will be used next week to launch the immunization campaign for the child and adolescent population, and the agreement with Pfizer that ensures the arrival of 20 million doses. The pandemic uncovered how the chips move in a global landscape dominated by the geopolitics of vaccines: those nations that move faster and with greater audacity are the ones that will finally be able to return to the normality that was snatched at the beginning of 2020.

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