Argentina delays second doses to focus on broader vaccinations

By Daniel Politi and Andrew E. Kramer

Argentina is delaying the administration of the second dose of COVID-19 vaccines for three months in an effort to ensure that as many people as possible get at least one dose amid a sluggish vaccination drive.

The move “seeks to vaccinate the largest number of people possible with the first dose to maximize the benefits of vaccination and diminish the impact of hospitalizations and mortality,” the government said in announcing the decision Friday.

The country has been applying Russia’s Sputnik V, China’s Sinopharm and Covishield, the Indian version of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Since its vaccination campaign began in December, Argentina, a country of 45 million people, says it has administered a total of 3.55 million doses of vaccine, including 658,426 who have received the two doses called for in the protocols for all three vaccines.

Several countries are considering delaying second doses, including Britain, which pursued a plan to separate doses by up to three months. And federal health authorities in the United States have indicated flexibility on expanding the gap between first and second doses to six weeks.

Argentina’s decision to delay second doses comes amid increasing concerns of the possibility of a new wave of COVID-19 cases and deaths, fueled by new variants that have engulfed several of Argentina’s neighbors, particularly Brazil, but also Chile and Paraguay.

Argentina is canceling all direct flights with Brazil, Chile and Mexico starting Saturday. It had already blocked flights from Britain and Ireland and recently required international travelers to take a mandatory coronavirus test on arrival and to quarantine in a hotel if the result came back positive.

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