The Costa Rican Social Security Fund (CCSS) aims to vaccinate the population against COVID-19 and achieve collective immunity at the national level in a period of 10 months. This was explained by the medical manager of the institution, Mario Ruiz.
The official assured that the process goes as fast as it is safe and logistically possible, with the receipt of a second dose for each vaccinated person and following the established parameters regarding the prioritization of the groups most prone to contracting the Virus, or becoming seriously ill.
As indicated by the official, vaccination in health centers and long-stay homes – the first priority group – is progressing favorably and will end until 220,000 doses are placed in 110,000 people who compose it. The vast majority of the 21,450 doses that entered the country in December and the 132,000 that will enter the country in January will be allocated to this group; along with another important group of those that will arrive in February.
Later, the vaccination of four more groups will come: 850,000 people over 58 years of age with or without risk factors; 1.56 million people over 18 years of age with risk factors; about 150 thousand people including officials from the MEP, private education, the National Children’s Trust (PANI), penitentiary centers and those deprived of liberty; and some 325 thousand people among health students, technicians related to the CCSS and people over 40 years of age who carry out contact activities.
Significant percentage of the population
Ruiz explained that all these groups make up 60% of the national population and up to 80% of the adult population, according to the Register of the Unique Digital Health Record (EDUS) of the Fund: a percentage that would significantly reduce the viral load. “The idea is that within 10 months, perhaps a little more or a little less, that percentage will already be vaccinated; with which we could achieve immunity for the country,” he stressed.
Just one more of the safety tools
Despite this expectation, the official was emphatic that, although the vaccine is the main tool to contain SARS-CoV-2, it will also require that hygiene protocols and other measures such as the use of masks be maintained, since the Pandemic will only be overcome when the largest number of people in the world are immunized and the protection offered by vaccines (greater than 90%) is sufficient.
“The vaccine is not a cure. We will have to continue using masks for a while, maintaining distancing measures for a time, and especially personal hygiene and self-care,” he concluded.
A dependent process
According to Dr. Ruiz, the different health areas and Ebais of the country are prepared to vaccinate their respective populations as soon as they have doses of the vaccine available. However, this is the main detail on which the progress of the process in each region will depend.
The intention is to receive more and more doses of the vaccine, for which it is negotiated with Pfizer and later the same will be done with AstraZeneca, whose vaccines would enter the country at the end of March.
In addition, the CCSS is working to improve its storage capacities for the Pfizer vaccine, of which it bought doses for 1.5 million people, which must be kept below 70 degrees Celsius for up to three hours before its application.
Furthermore, the admission of more doses is necessary because each patient requires two units; which is why the CCSS reserves half of each batch for the second vaccination. With this strategy, they seek to avoid vaccine waste, because if a person could not access their second application because the second dose does not arrive at the correct time, they could lose total effectiveness.
“There have been situations in other countries that we want to avoid regarding the waste of doses. We have tried to the maximum that it does not occur, in some countries doses have been lost because it has not been possible to protect the second doses (…) that is why here you have to go with very good managing, making sure that things are done well, and I compare it to a surgery, in which you can go up to a certain speed, but you have to try as hard as possible to do it in the best possible way and that running doesn’t make things go wrong.”
Full use of doses
“We are going to put all the vaccines that come to us and we are going to always protect the second dose, a process that will become more complex as time passes (…) we are going to do it as quickly as possible, but always maintaining the quality of care and security of care”, he stressed.
Ruiz also recalled that the process is moving quickly, especially if one takes into account that the country was one of the first 10 to receive and begin to apply the immunization. “Vaccination goes as quickly as possible, maintaining the quality and safety of the process. We depend on the doses that arrive in the country and we all want vaccination to be carried out as quickly as possible, but we must always maintain the quality of the care process”.
Costa Rica has already assured the purchase of six million doses for three million people. Half the doses were purchased from Pfizer, one million from AstraZeneca (for 500,000 people) and two million as part of the World Health Organization’s Covax mechanism (for 1 million people).