Vaccinations Against COVID-19: Why Is Chile Moving So Fast?


Updated February 21, 2021 at 2:38 pm

  • Chile is making very good progress with vaccinations: more than two million people were vaccinated in less than two weeks.
  • Hardly any other country is currently vaccinating against COVID-19 as quickly as the South American country.
  • In addition to a good “vaccination infrastructure”, the Chileans have one thing above all else: lots of vaccination doses in stock.

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A pandemic is not a competition, but many numbers are compared and rankings are made these days. One of them concerns the number of vaccine doses administered against COVID-19 – and alongside Israel, the USA, Great Britain and the United Arab Emirates, there is now a country ahead that most people would not have expected: Chile.

According to Oxford University’s Our World in Data website, the number of daily doses administered per 100 people in Chile is currently 0.94. Converted to the total population, this means that around 180,000 people are vaccinated there every day, which is an average of the past seven days.

Germany and Chile in direct comparison

For Germany, this value is currently 0.15 or – purely arithmetically and on a seven-day average – 120,000 people per day (as of February 16, 2021). This roughly coincides with the official figures shown on the Ministry of Health’s vaccination dashboard: it reported around 140,000 vaccinations for February 17th.

According to Our World in Data, a total of 2.32 million people in Chile now received at least the first vaccination dose (as of February 16, 2021). In Germany there are now 4.57 million, but Chile has only been vaccinating on a large scale for around two weeks. In this country the vaccination started shortly after Christmas.

Chile has participated in several vaccination studies

Experts attribute the fact that the South American country is making so rapid progress with vaccinations to two things:

  • 1) the experience with mass vaccination against the flu and the quick availability of many different vaccination sites such as stadiums, shopping malls, public places, parking lots, universities;
  • 2) Ordering various vaccines quickly and in large numbers at different stages of development and participating in clinical studies, such as those from Johnson & Johnson and Sinovac.

 The  latter in particular is said to have helped the country get the coveted vaccine doses at a better price.

Because Chile, with 19 million people, has much fewer inhabitants than Germany, for example, with 83 million, the percentage of those who have already received at least one dose in Chile is now more than twelve percent (as of February 16). In Germany it is 3.6 percent.

Herd immunity until summer?

© The  rapid progress in vaccination has raised the question of whether Chile could be the first country in the world to achieve herd immunity of its population against COVID-19. That would be the case if so many people were immune to the virus that the infection could no longer spread because the chains of infection would break off immediately.

But that depends primarily on two factors: whether people who are vaccinated are still contagious to others, and how contagious the virus is in general. Because the more contagious a pathogen is, the more people have to be immune to herd immunity. For measles, for example, it should be 95 percent of the population.

With COVID-19, it is neither certain that vaccinated people are no longer contagious, nor is the immune rate known that would ensure herd immunity. At the beginning of the pandemic there was once talk of 60 percent. Some experts are now assuming 80 or 90 percent – also in view of the new, more contagious mutations.

13 million vaccine doses in the first quarter

Indeed, Chile’s government has set a goal of vaccinating 80 percent of the country’s people by the end of June. Given the current vaccination rate, this seems doable – especially since the country has allegedly already secured more than double the required vaccination doses.

Through the EU and additional options, Germany also has assurances of almost 300 million vaccine doses from five manufacturers. Only: Not too many of them have been delivered yet, namely only 5.9 million (as of February 17). In the first quarter it should be between 13 and 15 million – roughly as many as in Chile with its far smaller population.

If vaccination were to continue at the rate that is currently the case in Germany, it would roughly take another year and a half for 80 percent of people to be vaccinated. However, this cannot be assumed.

Chile ordered from many early on

Nonetheless, the question of whether Germany could already have more vaccine doses at this point has been discussed for weeks, and with a view to Chile the answer could be: Possibly, if they had taken a broader stance here.


 The  South American country has apparently done that from the start: In addition to the vaccine from Biontech / Pfizer, orders were made early on from Johnson & Johnson, Astrazeneca, Sinovac – and are now apparently in negotiations with Russia about the Sputnik V vaccine. Only the Coronavac vaccine ©

 The  country is said to have ordered 60 million cans from the Chinese manufacturer Sinovac.

Because China has large production capacities and the Sinovac vaccine is easier to store than the one from Biontech / Pfizer, it seems like a good decision. However, so far different data are available on the effectiveness of Coronavac.

While values ​​of more than 70 to over 90 percent were initially rumored, Brazilian scientists, who also tested the vaccine, recently spoke of around 50 percent.

That should still be sufficient for protection, but Coronavac does not come close to the effectiveness of the vaccine from Biontech / Pfizer (95 percent). In view of the most recent revelations by NDR, WDR and Süddeutscher Zeitung, however, it is also clear: Sometimes it only comes out afterwards why something may have taken longer than hoped.

Sources used:

  • Ministry of Health vaccination dashboard
  • Our World in Data website at Oxford University
  • Federal government website
  • Website of the Association of Researching Drug Manufacturers (vfa)
  • Website of the University of Chile in Santiago de Chile
  • Website of the Chilean government

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Vaccinations COVID19 Chile Moving Fast


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