Peru’s Castillo Would Prioritize Vaccine Supply Over Efficacy

Peru’s Pedro Castillo, who continues to wait for the electoral court to proclaim him the next president, would prioritize vaccine supplies from wherever they’re available over waiting for the most-effective ones, his likely Health Minister Hernando Cevallos said.

“We want a sufficient number of vaccines and to make sure that they’re available when we take office, not in December,” Cevallos said in an interview. “We’d love all the vaccines to be above 92% effective but the best vaccine is the one that’s given. I prefer one that’s 70% effective over not giving one at all.”

Peru has the highest death rate per capita in the world from Covid-19 with nearly 200,000 fatalities in a country of 32.5 million people. The chance of a third wave hitting the nation is high, so there’s little time to waste to accelerate the vaccination campaign, Cevallos said.

After winning the June 6 runoff against Keiko Fujimori by a margin of 50.1% to 49.9%, Castillo is still waiting for the electoral court to certify the result. While Fujimori has alleged fraud during the election, international observers including the Organization of American States, the EU and the U.S. have said the process was free and fair. The proclamation should come before July 28, when the next government must take over.

Peru’s Castillo Would Prioritize Vaccine Supply Over Efficacy

Cevallos, who is a doctor by training and was a congressman with a leftist party from 2016 to 2019, said that he’s held meetings with officials at foreign embassies including China, Russia and Cuba to discuss potential vaccine supplies. The current government is also negotiating some 1 million shots of Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose, and any other deals signed by the outgoing administration will be respected, he said.

“We’re going to try to get as many vaccines as we can,” Cevallos said. “There are no ideological barriers.”

Thus far, Peru has administered some 9.3 million shots to cover 17% of the population with a single dose. About 11% are now fully vaccinated. So far the government has used shots from Sinopharm Group Co., Pfizer Inc. and AstraZeneca Plc.

Of concern in Peru is the emergence of the lambda coronavirus variant which is now predominant. It has proved to be more contagious and to affect younger people more than alpha, according to Lely Solari, an infectologist at the National Institute of Health. Gamma, which was first identified in the Brazilian city of Manaus, is also found in the Amazonian region of Peru while delta has yet to spread much in the country, and could be crowded out by the local mutations, she said.

“We’re most likely going to face a third wave that will be very hard on the health system, which isn’t prepared, and with a population that is mostly not vaccinated,” Cevallos said. “But we need to be in the government first to begin making decisions.”

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