Best laid plans

Is Argentinian infrastructure ready for a mass vaccination programme?

The Argentinian government recently presented its COVID-19 Strategic Vaccination Plan. In very general terms, this plan establishes the government agencies that will be in charge of executing the Plan, the target population, and the logistics and distribution planned to achieve the objectives.

The Ministry of Health is in charge of coordinating the plan, for which it will be working in coordination with other ministries and state agencies, and with the authorities of the 24 provinces. The army (and other security forces) is helping with logistics, but is not leading the programme.

So far, Argentina has received 820,000 doses of the Sputnik V vaccine produced by the Gamaleya Institute of Russia, enabling 410,000 people to be vaccinated with two doses. There is already concern about the rate of progress. The first 300,000 doses arrived in the country towards the end of December, and one month later, they have still not all been administered.

Although today’s problem inadequate supply, several specialists worry that if the vaccination rate is not accelerated, there won’t be adequate logistics infrastructure to store the quantity of doses delivered but not administered. It will be essential that the plan has clockwork precision, but if it fails, it will almost be better if the vaccines do not arrive in the expected quantities, at least in the short term.

Furthermore, the infrastructure problem is aggravated in places that are very difficult to access and in many places there are no suitable venues for vaccination centres. A Commercial Director at an Argentinian logistics company is anxious and has many unanswered concerns, “The distribution of the vaccine is going to have complications. How do we ensure that vaccines that need cold are not sent somewhere that doesn’t have the cold infrastructure? If millions of doses start arriving do the logistics centres and hospitals have enough space? What happens if customs clearance is delayed? What happens if a truck has problems? Argentina is vast, in some places there is nothing for many kilometres, the sheer distance is a problem.”

“Argentina is vast, in some places there is nothing for many kilometres, the sheer distance is a problem.”

Commercial Director, logistics company, Argentina

A final problem has to do with the voluntary nature of the application of the vaccines and the registration of the interested parties. How will that record be kept? How will it be updated? How will it be managed in those places where there is no internet access or adequate communications? And if it is not known how many people want to be vaccinated in some places, how many doses will be sent? When there are not enough doses, and when time is short, this is a basic problem, which today has no answer.

“Undoubtedly, we will have to get used to discussions between provinces, or between the government and the opposition.”

Political analyst, Argentina

In addition to physical logistics problems a political analyst in Argentina worries about internal politics, “All this, without considering the political factor. Undoubtedly, we will have to get used to discussions between provinces, or between the government and the opposition, to see how the doses are assigned, where to vaccinate, with what priorities etc.”

As with other issues, the government does not seem to have the necessary level of expertise to meet the problem it faces.

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