In Panama, there are more and more voices that question the internal processes of buying vaccines and freezers for storing COVID-19 vaccines. And these same voices wonder what Costa Rica is doing differently that they are not doing in their nation.
The newspaper La Prensa -the most important in that country- has published two articles this past Sunday and Monday. Each one highlights the work carried out by the health authorities of Costa Rica to guarantee the purchase of vaccines.
The first vaccines arrived in late December and, to date, the country has received just over 85,000 doses. These have arrived in four flights of the DHL company. Meanwhile, Panama is confident that more vaccines will reach its soil this week.
And as for the freezers, the government of Laurentino Cortizo is still in the bidding process, compared to the 14 freezers that Costa Rica acquired from China and that are on their way to the country, additionally, it has some loaned by the University of Costa Rica and the Technological Institute of Costa Rica.
Anger in Panama
Under the title “Costa Rica, a ‘coordinated’ process”, the aforementioned newspaper explains in its note this past Sunday the Ticos developed a “strategy of purchased planning in two ways and parallel: acquiring vaccines and planning the purchase storage infrastructure”.
The newspaper indicates – based on an interview with Eduardo Mora, legal advisor to the National Emergency Commission (CNE) – that the state of emergency decreed by the Pandemic expedited the purchasing processes.
Mora reported that Costa Rica “ran a risk” by signing two bilateral contracts with companies and one multilateral (Covax mechanism of the World Health Organization). The companies with which contracts were signed are Pfizer and AstraZeneca.
The “risk” was because the country was not certain whether the vaccines that were being developed and tested “were going to be authorized by international authorities” such as the US FDA.
These contracts were signed between September and October and the first doses arrived in December. For its part, Panama made its first payments at the end of December. As for the freezers, Costa Rica acquired them in November, while the neighboring nation has not yet put out to tender the acquisitions, La Prensa reported.
Regarding Panama’s strategy with these purchases, Rigoberto Centeno, an expert in Public Health in that country, declared that the country’s “strategy” regarding purchases of freezers is not clear. It details that it is not known if they are to attend the Pandemic or to support traditional vaccination.
Sideways with Costa Rica
At the end of December, with the arrival of the first vaccines to our country, the Health authorities reduced the credit and, on the contrary, published a controversial tweet that raised a rash in Panama.
The tweet not only bothered and surprised many Costa Ricans but above all the Panamanians themselves. In the responses published below the tweet, the Panamanians criticize the entity for “competing” with Costa Rica.
Also because they say that Panama barely tendered the acquisition of special equipment (deep freezers) to store the doses when they arrive between January and February.
But they also point out their misinformation. This is because Costa Rica signed a contract to acquire up to 3 million doses of Pfizer / BioNTech, not the 10,000 to which the official tweet mentions.
Costa Rican health authorities will also acquire 2 million doses from the Covax agreement, which is a tool of the World Health Organization (WHO). And another million doses from the AstraZeneca company.
Change of position
Weeks after that tweet, the heads of Health were happy about the vaccination campaign in the country. “If we are going to use other countries as a reference, and I am happy that Costa Rica has also made progress in its vaccination plan.
“Because we share a border and we have many commercial, social, economic, and neighbor ties. I think we lose the opportunity to understand what our priorities and our goals are,” said Ivette Berrío, vice-minister of the portfolio, in a statement to La Prensa.
The aforementioned newspaper questioned her about why Panama detracted from the arrival “little by little” of doses. This “after Costa Rica received the first batch of 10,000 at the end of December.”
“We appeal to the understanding of the population, who are the only beneficiaries of this management (…) Vaccination, we reiterate, will be voluntary and free,” added the official.