BOGOTA (Reuters) – Colombia has reached an agreement with Johnson & Johnson’s pharmaceutical division Janssen to acquire 9 million doses of coronavirus vaccines, President Ivan Duque said in a televised address on Wednesday.
The Andean country, which has reported over 1.6 million cases of coronavirus and just under 43,000 deaths, had already secured deals with Pfizer and AstraZeneca Plc to provide 10 million doses each of their COVID-19 vaccines.
Colombia will also receive an additional 20 million doses through the COVAX mechanism.
“Today the agreement was signed for the acquisition of 9 million vaccines for 9 million citizens,” Duque said.
While the earlier-secured vaccines require two doses per person, the J&J vaccines need just one, meaning the country has secured enough for around 29 million people, Duque said.
More vaccine agreements will be finalized in the coming days, Duque added, allowing for the vaccination of 35 million people in the country.
“According to experts, with those 35 million (vaccinated people), we will be coming closer towards herd immunity,” Duque said.
Colombia will provide COVID-19 vaccines for free under its national vaccination plan, but is also preparing rules to allow people to purchase the vaccine privately, according to the health ministry.
First in line for vaccination will be healthcare workers and those over 80 years old, followed by people aged between 60 and 79, and those whose chronic health conditions put them at greater risk of severe COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
Fearing rising infection numbers over the holiday season, Colombian authorities have implemented measures such as banning sales of alcohol in bars and restaurants at night, as well as limiting when people can enter shops based on their national identity number.
(Reporting by Oliver Griffin and Nelson Bocanegra; Editing by Sam Holmes)