(Update with quote, context)
ASUNCIÓN, Jun 28 (Reuters) – The United States said on Monday it will donate one million doses of the Pfizer vaccine against COVID-19 to Paraguay, an announcement that brings relief to the government of the South American country whose immunization program moves slowly when there is a strong wave of cases.
The Vice Minister of State for Political Affairs of the United States, Victoria Nuland, announced the arrival of the vaccines “in a few weeks” during a visit to Asunción as part of a Latin American tour that will also take her to Panama and El Salvador.
“I am very happy to be able to announce here today that we are going to donate one million doses of Pfizer vaccines to Paraguay,” said Nuland, who also pledged help from her government to accelerate the delivery of other doses through the global COVAX mechanism, led by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Nuland met with Paraguayan President Mario Abdo at the government headquarters and spoke with local media after a meeting with Foreign Minister Euclides Acevedo. The official also highlighted Paraguay’s relationship with Taiwan, which “sets a strong example for the world,” she said.
Paraguay is the only country in South America that has diplomatic relations with Taiwan, considered a rebel province by China. This link has left it in a complex situation when negotiating the purchase of vaccines of Chinese origin, unlike other countries in the region.
“This helps a lot to continue with the national vaccination plan so that this situation improves,” Health Minister Julio Borba told reporters, adding that the vaccines would arrive in the first week of July, in a single batch.
In addition to the donation, Paraguay also signed a contract with Pfizer to purchase another million doses, the government announced weeks ago.
With a population of 7 million inhabitants, Paraguay recorded a new daily record of 152 deaths from COVID-19 yesterday to add 12,517 since the start of the pandemic.
The Ministry of Public Health, which this week lowered the vaccination rate for people 50 years and older, said it has so far vaccinated 665,117 people with at least one dose. (Report by Daniela Desantis Edited in Spanish by Javier López de Lérida)