In the midst of a significant increase in covid-19 cases, which is added to a peak of respiratory diseases and a strong winter wavethe Ministry of Health told EL TIEMPO that it has already purchased 3,795,000 doses of bivalent vaccines (BA.4/5) – that is, with two variants – to continue fighting the virus.
This was confirmed by Johanna Barbosa, director of Promotion and Prevention of this portfolio, who pointed out that “they will be delivered in the first quarter of 2023” and that the Sanitary Authorization for Emergency Use (Asue) from Invima is awaiting. Also, reported that it is planned to buy another 5,086,000 doses of this type, to reach a total of 8,881,000 next year. For these biologicals, there is a budget of 286,614’587,900 pesos.
These vaccines are also known as “updated vaccines” – explains infectologist Carlos Álvarez – because they have two sequences: the original virus and one of the omicron variant, which makes them more effective. They have already been approved in countries like the United States. Barbosa also clarified that “this biological will be used especially to apply reinforcements”, because those who receive this vaccine must already have a minimum of the primary scheme.
But this is not the only strategy. The official added that, for next year, immunization against covid-19 will have two different approaches. On the one hand, it will be transferred to the regular vaccination scheme and, in addition, an extramural component will be worked on. In other words, health care teams will be transferred to the homes, which will have vaccinators (see attached interview).
According to the most recent report from the Ministry of Health and Social Protection, in the week between November 18 and 24, 2,112 new cases of covid-19 were reported, this is 814 more than the week immediately before (1,298 new infections). However, there is still no increase in hospitalizations or deaths.
And despite the fact that immunization is the most pertinent preventive measure, in the country, cut off on November 24, only 14,464,311 booster doses and 2,090,712 fourth doses have been applied. In addition, the complete schemes still do not exceed 40 million vaccines (36,848,923 to date), and there are many people who wonder if, despite having applied the booster doses, their immune system continues to be protected against the virus.
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It is a joint responsibility. The EPS know which of their affiliates do not have all the vaccinations and must carry out an induced search; that is, find them and convince them
Giovanny Rubiano, director of the National Institute of Health (INS) argues that many have stopped applying reinforcements among other things because they see “that it is no longer a lethal disease with the first and second doses and that they no longer require hospital services in case of infection ”. However, he is emphatic in assuring that the pandemic has not ended and that an increase in the demand for health services due to respiratory infections is expected.
In this regard, the deputy director of Communicable Diseases of the Ministry of Health, William Alberto Robles, assured that the country has enough biologicals: a total of 12,266,040 doses against covid-19. For this reason, he recommended accessing the doses at any vaccination point in the country, both to start schemes and to complete them or apply reinforcements.
In addition, Robles called the attention of the EPS, territorial organizations and the public to maintain alertness, care and protection measures against covid-19 and other respiratory infections. “It is a joint responsibility. The EPS know which of their affiliates do not have all the vaccinations and must carry out an induced search; that is, find them and convince them that the vaccine represents protection and care of life”, he explained.
On this subject, Álvarez says that for the severe forms of the virus, which cause hospitalization and death, immunity could extend for almost 12 months; however, “rather than applying another booster – which is likely to happen – the most important thing is that people over the age of 18 put on the two already available boosters,” he explained.
For now, the Ministry of Health emphasizes that people with comorbidities and population at risk complete their initial schemes. In addition, it has been alerted so that, as a suggestion, reuse protective measures such as masks in closed places and on public transport. This is the special case of the department of Sucre, where in recent days three officials from the Departmental Health Secretariat have been infected with covid-19, which – together with cases registered in Sincelejo and other municipalities – led the authorities to order again the use of the mask in closed places and with little ventilation.
Despite the peaks in respiratory diseases that can generate a slight increase in infections, Colombia has a surveillance system capable of coping with the season. This was stated by Gina Tambini, representative of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) in the country, who stressed that “Colombia, with the National Institute of Health, a regional benchmark for genomic surveillance.”
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Rebound in cases is not an exclusive trend in Colombia
Gina Tambini, representative of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) in Colombia, mentioned yesterday that There is an increase in covid-19 cases in the world, especially in the Asian area.
In general, this epidemic behavior in Europe and in these Asian countries has always somewhat preceded the behavior of what has happened in Latin American countries and in Colombia.
In China, the increase in cases derived from the “zero covid” policy has generated protests in which thousands of citizens have taken to the streets of Beijing and Shanghai to demonstrate against the quarantines and mobility restrictions imposed in much of the country.
However, megacities remain in lockdown and the Asian giant is believed to have reached a stalemate as authorities try to contain the virus while keeping the economy and collective spirit alive. Until now, the nation seems to be an important point of reference on the epidemiological evolution of other countries in the world.
For Andrea Ramírez, an epidemiologist at the Universidad de los Andes, “it is important to take into account that, in general, this epidemic behavior in Europe and in these Asian countries has always somewhat preceded the behavior of what has happened in Latin American countries and In colombia”. According to the epidemiologist, in the international circumstances of the virus, added to this slight increase that is observed and the conditions given by the respiratory peak due to the winter wave, it is very important to resort to vaccination and other self-care measures.
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The agency has alerted that it is necessary to maintain protection measures and ensure that everyone receives the vaccine. In this regard, Ramírez explains that the average number of new confirmed cases has been increasing in the last 7 days, particularly in several European countries. “We see new cases of the order of 40,000 daily in France, 20,000 in Germany and an intermediate of 32,000 more or less in Italy,” he specifies. According to the expert, this increase can also be seen in the United States, with at least 35,000 cases a day, and in Asian countries such as China or Japan, the figures have been increasing exponentially for months. “This is compatible with a spike and is dominated by the omicron sub-variants, which are currently circulating,” she said.
In this sense, Other nations besides the US have approved updated vaccines against the omicron variant ahead of the approaching winter wave. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has also given the green light to this type of biologic, which is a new and “more effective” version of the original vaccine.
However, Ramírez clarified that although these biologics are promising, that does not mean that the ones that are available are useless. “Of course they are useful, and, above all, they provide protection against severe forms of the disease, which is why it is essential that people apply the reinforcement that is available and that at this moment already corresponds to them due to time,” he concluded.
‘Vaccination will be very different’
Three questions to Johanna Barbosa, Director of Promotion and Prevention of the Ministry of Health.
What does the Ministry of Health plan to face covid-19 in 2023?
There are several strategies. The first is that all vaccination against covid-19 will formally become part of the regular vaccination scheme. The second thing is that a modification is made in resolution 518, to include activities to prevent infection with the collective intervention plans, where house-to-house education, community environment and educational institutions will be reinforced.
Colombia is going to have a very different vaccination strategy next year, where a very strong extramural component is going to be given. The idea is, initially, to bring about 3,000 basic health care teams next year that they will go house to house, doing all the educational activities, where there will be extramural vaccinators within the framework of the new model.
And we are going to bring health education intervention processes to the classrooms of both public and private institutions.
What is the budget for that strategy?
For the purposes of the national public health strategy, of the total 1.7 trillion pesos that are allocated to public health through the General System of Participations (SGP), approximately 25 percent will go to reinforce activities in the field of immunopreventable diseases, like the 50,000 million pesos that are transferred via Adres, through resolution 2226, are aimed at strengthening house-to-house care teams.
Do we have biologicals to cover even third and fourth doses?
As a ministry, we have guaranteed all the biologicals to complete the vaccination schemes for the population that is pending reinforcement and increase coverage in complete schemes. At this time, Colombia has both the budget and the stock of biologicals in territorial entities and in the free zone of Bogotá.
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