ASUNCION (Reuters) – Paraguay is negotiating with five foreign pharmaceutical companies to acquire up to 4 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine in early 2021, Health Minister Julio Mazzoleni said on Friday, to supplement those it has already locked in under the COVAX system.
Mazzoleni said the country of nearly 7 million is expecting more than 4 million doses in May or June through the World Health Organization-led COVAX initiative, a scheme for pooled procurement and equitable distribution of vaccines. The price tag is $40 million, he said.
“We are having conversations to complement, even double (the committed doses from COVAX),” Mazzoleni told reporters, adding that the deals were subject to timing and availability.
Nations throughout hard-hit Latin America are scrambling to lock in supplies of the vaccines for their citizens. Paraguay has been praised for its shrewd management of the pandemic, though cases have risen in recent weeks.
The minister did not specify the companies involved in the discussions, but said “they are the ones that everyone knows.”
He said an eventual deal with the pharmaceuticals would make sense if “they can do it before the COVAX mechanism.”
The minister also announced a prohibition on travel outside the capital Asunción between Dec. 25 and Jan. 3 to limit the spread of the virus during end of year celebrations.
Paraguay has registered nearly 100,000 coronavirus cases and more than 2,000 deaths from the disease.
(Reporting by Daniela Desantis; Writing by Dave Sherwood; Editing by Tom Brown)