QUITO (Reuters) - Ecuador has signed supply agreements with major pharmaceutical firms including Pfizer Inc and BioNTech to provide millions of COVID-19 vaccines, the health minister said on Wednesday, adding it is seeking talks with Chinese laboratories for more supplies.
The Andean country, facing an economic downturn exacerbated by the pandemic, has obtained funds through the Inter-American Development Bank to finance access to the COVAX vaccine, which is being led by the World Health Organization, Carlos Zevallos said.
"At this moment we do not have scientific proof, for example, that vaccine X is going to work on a specific population. That is why we are targeting all possibilities," Zevallos told reporters. "We want an effective, safe vaccine that reaches the country on time and at a reasonable price."
The government of President Lenin Moreno has also signed a vaccine supply deal with AstraZeneca Plc and a letter of intent to buy another 2 million doses from COVAXX, a unit of United Biomedical Inc.
And it has begun talks with Johnson & Johnson, Novavax Inc and Moderna Inc, and has notified three Chinese laboratories of its interest in starting conversations.
Ecuador has nearly 155,000 coronavirus infections and more than 8,000 deaths, according to official data.
The government also includes in the data about 4,300 people who have probably died of COVID-19.
Authorities expect the vaccines will begin arriving in 2021, with priority to be given to health professionals and workers at risk of exposure.
(Reporting by Alexandra Valencia in Quito; Writing by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Matthew Lewis)