By Laura Gamba
BOGOTA, Colombia (AA) - Several Latin American and Caribbean nations are seeing a surge in coronavirus numbers and are racing Friday to secure an eventual vaccine.
Although the Pan American Health Organization said it will only assist in the delivery of a vaccine that is confirmed reliable, efficient in clinical trials and endorsed by the World Health Organization, countries do not intend to fall behind and are negotiating supplies.
The country is seeking to secure vaccines before the April presidential elections, a government official said Friday.
It is negotiating with different laboratories in at least seven countries as part of a plan to immunize 22 million people.
"We have a key date that is first round elections (on April 11) and therefore our priority is to have vaccines for the first quarter and that is what is being negotiated," according to Arturo Jarama, the official in charge of talks with laboratories.
Peru reported 879,876 cases and 33,984 deaths.
A day after President Jair Bolsonaro said Brazil would not buy the Chinese vaccine, Sao Paulo Governor Joao Doria announced Friday the creation of six new testing centers for a vaccine developed by the Butantan Institute in partnership with Chinese laboratory, Sinovac.
Meanwhile, Brazilian regulator Anvisa authorized a biomedical center to import 6 million doses of the Sinovac vaccine. Doria said Anvisa told him it will not bow to political pressure to approve potential vaccines.
Brazil recorded 30,026 cases of the coronavirus in the past 24 hours, and 571 deaths.
It has registered more than 5.3 million cases, while the official death toll rose to 155,900.
Deputy Health Minister Hugo Lopez-Gatell said Friday that those younger than 18 would not be able to receive a vaccine because there is no information regarding their reaction to being inoculated.
"It's not going to be possible anywhere in the world to have the information needed to vaccinate people under 18," he said.
In his daily COVID-19 report, Lopez-Gatell said clinical trials have not included anyone from the age group.
Mexico reported more than 87,415 cases.
US Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Michael Kozak said Friday that Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega has "endangered" the health of Nicaraguans by his handling of the pandemic.
“Ortega's lack of transparency and continued concealment of COVID's seriousness endangers the health and prosperity of Nicaraguans,” he said on Twitter. “The people have the right to hold their leaders accountable through a free press, freedom of expression and free and fair elections.”
Kozak published a video denouncing a ban on the use of personal protection equipment among public sector health workers in Nicaragua, the cover-up of deaths, dismissal of doctors for speaking out, blocking or censoring information as well as obstacles journalists face to information.
Nicaragua recorded 155 deaths associated with coronavirus and 5,434 cases.
Vice President Marta Lucia Ramirez tested positive for coronavirus, she said Friday. Ramirez took a test Thursday ahead of her attendance at a conference with governors, which returned a positive result.
She said she is asymptomatic, in good health and is isolated to avoid infecting others.
Coronavirus cases in Colombia near 1 million, as deaths closed in on 30,000, according to US-based Johns Hopkins University.