The president of Chile, Sebastian Pinera (front), delivers a speech accompanied by the Chilean Minister of Health, Enrique Paris (right), the charge d'affaires of China's Embassy in Chile, Zhou Yi (left), and other officials, during the arrival of a shipment of CoronaVac vaccines against the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), manufactured by the Chinese firm Sinovac, at the Arturo Merino Benitez International Airport, in Santiago, capital of Chile, on January 28, 2021.(Xinhua/Jorge Villegas)
Chilean President Sebastian Pinera on Thursday welcomed a shipment of nearly 2 million vaccines developed by Chinese firm Sinovac Biotech as the South American country is preparing for mass vaccination campaign against COVID-19.
"Today is a day of joy, excitement and hope because, as you see behind me, there is the plane that brought a shipment of almost 2 million doses of Sinovac vaccines from China," Pinera said after the aircraft landed at the Arturo Merino Benitez International Airport in the capital Santiago.
Pinera was accompanied by Health Minister Enrique Paris, Dr. Alexis Kalergis, director of the Millennium Institute in Immunology and Immunotherapy (IMII), where the drug is being tested in Chile, and the charge d'affaires of China's Embassy in Chile, Zhou Yi, among other officials.
The vaccines, which were stored and shipped at a temperature of between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius to keep them in perfect condition, were immediately unloaded from a LATAM Airline's Boeing 787-9 aircraft.
Pinera noted that the Health Ministry approved Sinovac's CoronaVac vaccine as "safe and effective" for immunizing all age groups over 18, including those over 60.
On Jan. 20, the Chilean Institute of Public Health (ISP) authorized the emergency use of the Sinovac vaccine.
Another shipment is to arrive on Jan. 31, bringing almost 2 million more Sinovac vaccines that will be used in the immunization drive, Pinera added.
On Wednesday, "after having the certificates that certify the safety of this vaccine, we will be able to initiate a mass vaccination process in all regions of the country," Pinera said.
He also announced that he and Health Minister Paris "are going to be vaccinated with a Sinovac vaccine and, probably, we will do it in the second week of February."
Chinese envoy Zhou told Xinhua that since the onset of the pandemic, China has devoted all its efforts to researching and developing vaccines and promoting global health cooperation.
China attaches great importance to Chile's demand for vaccines and is willing to continue promoting bilateral cooperation on vaccines against COVID-19, said Zhou.
Meanwhile, IMII Director Kalergis said the results of the trials so far are promising.
"The work in our phase III clinical study in Chile is preliminary, but it is very important because we are evaluating the vaccine in our country, and the results that we have seen in the study in Chile clearly show favorable safety data and also immunogenicity," said Kalergis.
Chile's Health Ministry reported Thursday that 714,143 people have tested positive for COVID-19 since the outbreak of the pandemic here, of which 670,336 have recovered, and 18,174 have died from the disease.
Chile is facing a resurgence in infections and has thus had to resume restrictive measures and confinements in towns hardest hit by the virus amid the peak tourism season of the austral summer months.