Ecuador launches 100-day vaccine plan, president recognizes challenges

·2-min read
COVID-19 vaccinations for the elderly, in Guayaquil

QUITO (Reuters) - Ecuador this week launched a plan to vaccinate 9 million people against the novel coronavirus in 100 days, part of recently installed President Guillermo Lasso's plan to revive the economy by battling the pandemic.

Lasso recognized that the country needed to acquire further doses from overseas in order to reach that goal, and said the government was in talks with Russia over the purchase of some 18 million doses of the Sputnik V vaccine.

"All of our logistical effort will be successful once we have vaccines," Lasso said while presenting the plan. "It is urgent, and we depend on the provision of vaccines from abroad."

Ecuador began its inoculation campaign in January, but former President Lenin Moreno's administration advanced slowly due to logistical issues, allegations of nepotism in the allocation of shots, and frequent changes of top health officials.

Lasso, a conservative ex-banker who took office on May 24, said he had also asked the United Nations to speed up the delivery of vaccines under the COVAX initiative intended to supply shots to poor countries. The World Health Organization, part of the U.N. system, oversees the program.

The Health Ministry has said that Ecuador has received some 3.5 million doses so far of Pfizer Inc, Sinovac and AstraZeneca Plc vaccines.

The South American country's rollout will use more than 300 spaces that had been equipped to serve as election centers in the recent April vote. The government will deploy mobile vaccination brigades to hard-to-reach rural areas, including the communities of the Amazon region.

Ecuador, with a population of 17.5 million, has reported some 427,690 coronavirus cases and more than 20,620 deaths between confirmed and likely cases.

(Reporting by Alexandra Valencia in Quito; Writing by Luc Cohen; Editing by Matthew Lewis)