Between March and April, the Costa Rican Social Security Fund (CCSS) will begin to call all people over 58 by phone to schedule appointments and vaccinate them against COVID-19.
But as more vaccines come in, the institution will begin to implement other strategies, such as open vaccination in shopping centers and house-to-house visits.
This was explained by the coordinator of the Immunization Program of the Fund, Leandra Abarca, who assured that these strategies – called “extramural” – will serve to reach more people. “In the second quarter, when we already expect to have more vaccines arriving, health personnel will incorporate other strategies such as some extramural ones,” Abarca explained.
As part of these strategies, the staff of clinics and ebais could go out to visit people who are part of the CCSS home visiting program from house to house, as explained by the doctor. Also, the institution could set up vaccination awnings in communal sites – such as schools or libraries – or even shopping centers, Abarca said. They would have to meet criteria to carry out the vaccination in a controlled way.
But these strategies will only begin to work when the country has an expanded number of vaccines. For this reason, initially, the ebais themselves will contact patients by phone to get vaccinated.
The Fund estimates the start of vaccination of people over 58 years of age by the end of the first quarter of 2021. This is the second priority group. The first group includes first responders and nursing homes.
How do they find me?
The ebais have registered in their databases the people insured with the Fund. With this information, health personnel will contact people over 58 years of age by phone. In general, the ebais and clinics will be the main channel of communication with people, Abarca said. Patients may contact these centers to find out when the vaccine arrives in their community.
Eventually, the institution will seek that the Edus application can send notifications to people, to remember the day of their second dose or to schedule vaccination appointments. However, this option has not yet been enabled.
What do I do when they contact me?
When contacted, patients will be able to schedule an appointment at the health facility and attend the vaccination that day. The Fund, therefore, asked the population to avoid attending medical centers without an appointment, since the vaccine will only be administered if there was already previous contact with people, according to Abarca.
Do I need any documents?
To receive the vaccine, the Fund will request the identity card or some other document that certifies a regular immigration status. As part of the process, in addition, the Fund will deliver vaccination cards to the population to maintain adequate control over the doses granted, as well as the pharmaceutical of the vaccine. Some people who have already received the influenza vaccine in other years – often older adults – already have a vaccination card. These cards are also used for the COVID-19 vaccine.
Does it have any cost?
The vaccine will be given free of charge to all people, regardless of whether they are insured with the Fund or not. However, it will only be granted to people with regular immigration status.
In case of not having CCSS insurance, the institution asked to contact the ebais and clinics. In this way, uninsured persons would be registered in the databases and would be contacted later.
Are there any health restrictions?
Before carrying out the vaccination, the medical personnel carry out a questionnaire to the patients, to verify that the vaccination conditions are safe, Abarca said. Patients with certain conditions – such as a history of severe allergies or asthma – may be vaccinated but only within medical centers. In other words, they cannot be vaccinated in “extramural” strategies, once they are implemented. Furthermore, pregnant women and children cannot be vaccinated, since clinical trials do not provide scientific evidence on the effectiveness of the vaccine in this population.
How do you monitor vaccination?
The Fund has a database, provided by the National Institute of Statistics and Censuses (INEC), which registers all people over 58 years of age in each community in the country. With these data, the institution will analyze whether, of the total number of people over 58 years of age in a canton, it is treating enough people to get vaccinated. In other words, the Fund can identify which communities are vaccinated the most.
On the contrary, in communities with low vaccination rate, information will be sought through the media, social networks and even peripherals so that people attend to be vaccinated, said Abarca.
What happens after my first dose?
All vaccinated people will need to return for a second dose. In the case of the Pfizer vaccine, the second dose is given 21 days after the first. In the case of AstraZeneca, the second dose is 28 days. People must schedule a new appointment with their health facility to apply the second dose of this vaccine. In addition, they must provide their vaccination card.
Can I break health protocols when I get vaccinated?
No. The vaccine takes at least a week after the second dose to build immunity, so people would still be at risk from COVID-19. But another factor is even more important. While vaccinated people have protection against severe symptoms of COVID-19, they can still contract it and spread it to other people.
Health authorities have warned that the protocols against COVID-19 and restrictive measures may begin to be lowered once at least 70% of the population has been vaccinated. The Fund estimates that vaccinating “the entire vulnerable population” will take between 7 and 8 months, depending on how quickly the vaccines arrive from the developers.