Health Minister Carla Vizzotti announced Tuesday that Argentina will begin offering a third dose of coronavirus vaccine to citizens over 50 and those with weakened immune systems.
The official, speaking at a press conference with Tourism & Sports Minister Matías Lammens, also said that foreign arrivals aged under 18 will be exempt from quarantine measures and offered vaccines at border crossings.
"Starting in December, the reinforcement will begin. We will begin with health personnel and progress gradually as we have progressed with our vaccination campaign," said Vizzotti.
"The immunocompromised and those who have received the Sinopharm vaccine will receive a third dose," said the head of the health portfolio, who went on to differentiate between a third shot and a booster.
“It is different from receiving a booster [shot]. The third dose complements the primary scheme to extend protection and the booster, after having received the recommended primary scheme, what it does is to reinforce immunity periodically and that takes place at least six months after having received the primary scheme.”
Vizzotti said that the decision to give a third dose to those who received Sinopharm – a group of more than 1.5 million people – is an attempt to strengthen immunity among high risk groups. The process will begin in December, with additional “reinforcement” for healthcare workers to follow.
"Immunocompromised people, people who have low defences for any reason, [and are] older than three years, who have received any available vaccination scheme, it is recommended they apply for a third dose," she said.
"Sinopharm’s vaccines can be complemented with a heterologous scheme to improve the results of the third dose, so vaccines from AstraZeneca will be distributed to stimulate the immune response," she said, adding: "We have vaccines for children, adolescents, second doses, and for the third dose for the immunocompromised, over-50s with Sinopharm.”
Discussing the evolution of the pandemic, Vizzotti said Argentina was in “a favourable epidemiological situation" while warning that the infection rate among those under 18 had doubled over the past six weeks. Monitoring by the Health Ministry indicated that 60 percent of current cases were of the Delta variant, she added.
"We have the doses available to complete all the vaccination schedules for those who have started it and to start those for children and adolescents," said Vizzotti. “The idea is that schemes are completed before the end of the year and [to] advance strongly among children and adolescents."
Health Ministry officials reported 1,227 new infections on Monday, lifting the cumulative total since the start of the pandemic to 5,281,585. A total of 115,851 fatalities have been recorded over the same period, with 25 in the preceding 24 hours.
According to official data, a total of 25.46 million people have completed their vaccination schemes, roughly 57 percent of the population. Some 33.15 million (73 percent) have received at least one dose.
Borders and tourism
Vizzotti also announced that the national government will soon allow the entry of foreign travellers into the country with just a negative PCR test, while Lammens said that tourists aged under 18 will be exempt from quarantine upon arrival in Argentina in order to be offered immediate vaccination.
"Argentina is going to authorise the entry of tourists vaccinated with negative PCR," said Vizzotti, who said the government had managed to successfully delay the entry of the Delta variant.
Along these lines, she explained that "tourists with a PCR will be exempted after seven days and there will be an exemption from quarantine for those aged under 18 who come with their family."
With restrictions on entry lifted for those aged under 18, vaccination points will also be made available for unvaccinated tourists who enter national soil, she added, most likely at land border crossings, such as Formosa (border with Paraguay), Salta and Jujuy (border with Bolivia).
Explaining the decision to offer shots to tourists aged under 18, Lammens said that Argentina had “enough stock” to vaccinate its citizens and that the offer would help to boost tourism.
"It is important to emphasise that everyone can get vaccinated, there are vaccines available for everyone," said the minister
Lammens confirmed that foreign arrivals would no longer be required to take a PCR test within five to seven days of entering the country, though they will need to have completed their individual vaccination schedules and have a negative PCR test result from up to 72 hours before arrival in order to avoid obligatory quarantine measures.