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‘We will have to continue vaccinating the population until the COVID-19 disease becomes endemic,’ says Minister Ximena Garzón

The official hopes that in February 2022 there will be a more concrete proposal for the installation of a vaccine production factory in Ecuador.

Ximena Garzón Villalba She has been Minister of Public Health since last May. She is a doctor of Medicine. Furthermore, it is Ph.D. D. in Public Health and has a post-doctorate in Occupational Health Research and Occupational Epidemiology in the United States.

In an interview with this newspaper, he addresses, among other topics, the challenges and challenges for 2022 and vaccination against COVID-19.

On February 29, 2022, it will be two years since the presence of COVID-19 in Ecuador. What lessons does it leave us?

Although at the beginning of the pandemic it was a disaster, first because no one was prepared, no one; later, because technical coordination was lacking, well, different situations. Since we entered the Ministry, the situation has been reversed, first with the vaccination plan, of course, and then, therefore, by improving quality at the level of the comprehensive health system. People not only died from COVID during the pandemic, they also died from pathologies that could not be treated because the hospitals were collapsed, with patients with COVID. We did a restructuring of the system, of the Ministry, and from the beginning we began to treat complicated pathologies; We resumed transplants, we began to treat cancer patients again, with autoimmune diseases, we already began to solve the dammed surgeries. So, I think it is a good lesson that we have had of organization, of solidarity, that technical issues prevail in this pandemic.

The authorities of the previous government affirmed that the country was prepared. When they arrived at the Ministry, I assume that it was a surprise to see that they had only just begun to implement a plan, both in hospitals and in vaccination …

During the time that the pandemic had lasted, until we got to the Ministry, there were 75,000 excess deaths confirmed, and how many more people will have died that are not known to have died from the pandemic. This shows that the country was not prepared, and I am not telling you that only Ecuador, I believe that many countries worldwide were not prepared.

At the end of January 2020, with a Chinese citizen, the alert began for the arrival of the pandemic in Ecuador; from there it was said that the ‘country was prepared’

What could be the challenge on the issue of the pandemic for 2002?

We will continue with our vaccination plan strategically, vaccinating; We always start with the most vulnerable and from there we gradually vaccinate the least vulnerable. We will also, of course, monitor how our Phoenix plan is going, for comprehensive control of the pandemic, in which we carry out georeferencing to determine outbreaks at the national level, which allows us to carry out epidemiological surveillance of different types and implement epidemiological and diagnostic fences. early cases.

With the declaration of the omicron variant as a community contagion, could these plans not be complicated?

We have a perfectly determined outbreak in Guayas, and we know where to direct our resources; That is the advantage of having an active epidemiological monitoring system, that we know where to direct our resources. So, we will shorten the vaccination times as we have done: before we vaccinated the booster at 6 months from the age of 65, now we lower that interval to five months and we are vaccinating from the age of 60. And according to epidemiological needs, depending on how the curves go, how the trends go, here in the country we will make the appropriate decisions.

Could the booster dose be no longer at five months, but at a shorter time?

It could be. Depending on how the omicron variant behaves here in the country we can draw new guidelines.

When could it be? Or would they have to wait for more cases in other provinces?

Depending on the number of hospitalizations we have, depending on the number of intensive care beds we have, depending on the groups most affected by this variant, that is, the epidemiological characteristics of this outbreak that exists and the description of the omicron case.

Among those measures that are necessary, could there be a new confinement?

We will try not to. We know that one of the strongest social determinants for the impact of this pandemic is poverty. A confined country is a country that does not produce economically.

In Ecuador, the omicron variant of COVID-19 is already community, according to the Ministry of Public Health

Could there be a fourth dose?

We have to be aware that all vaccines need boosters. Scientific evidence has already reached us that, after 6 months, the efficacy of the vaccine decreases; then, we will have to continue vaccinating the population until the disease becomes endemic and has a behavior similar to influenza, that is, it becomes seasonal, in which we will have peaks, possibly one or two peaks a year, for which we have to be prepared and get the vaccine; but this will happen in a few months yet. Everything depends on the behavior of the new variants so that it is decided how often it has to be put in, if it is an annual reinforcement or if there are two annual reinforcements.

What about this manufacturing center that you had announced could be installed in Ecuador?

It is a multisectoral alliance: we have a private company or perhaps two private companies, because one is going to give us the part of the manufacture of biosimiles, erection of the factory; we have the ESPE, the Ministry of Public Health, we have the Inspi. So, we have to engage legally, legally, all these institutions in order to have a legal framework, transparent, clear and viable, above all. I think that by February we will have a more concrete proposal. We have made approaches with several vaccine producers; They are interested either in manufacturing the vaccine in Ecuador or in finishing and packaging the vaccines. We have had conversations with Colombia so that they produce a part of the vaccine production chain and Ecuador have another function in production.

In Ecuador a trial is being carried out with a Chinese vaccine, they had made a proposal so that it can be manufactured here in the country.

They are doing a clinical trial, here in Ecuador, of a Chinese vaccine. We know that there were some problems with the study subjects in that vaccine and the truth seems that they have not had very encouraging results.

What is the challenge for next year?

The first is keep the pandemic under control, in such a way that it allows us to continue activating ourselves socially and economically. The other challenge is, of course, supplying hospitals with drugs, changing the drug supply system so that what the public has been suffering in the last two years will never be suffered again, guaranteeing that the supply is continuous. , completely transparent, honest, legal, no drug waste nor of medical supplies. Also improve infrastructure of many health units, fully implement the ten-year health plan, which is a public health plan that has measurable objectives with statistical indicators, which will allow us to gradually implement, improve a quality health system public. (I)

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