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Free Vaccinations for 58+ as Costa Rica Looks to Turn the Corner

After the global pandemic in 2020, many countries are starting to look ahead to 2021 as a chance to overcome the virus and turn the corner. 

Vital to this effort is the vaccine, but the worldwide rollout has been uneven and complicated, to say the least.

That’s why it’s refreshing and uplifting to see that Costa Rica has continued its decisive pandemic response, securing a sizable share of the initial vaccine and currently ranking among the foremost countries in the world at immunizing a portion of its population, including first responders and high-risk older individuals. 

Elizabeth Costillo, 91, receives the first vaccination in Costa Rica

This ongoing immunization plan will expand in the coming months, with the next phase in March and April including free vaccinations for any resident or citizen aged 58 or older. 

As a whole, this plan is yet another indication of the results of continued investment in environmental and human capital over the past few decades that have separated Costa Rica from many developing countries.

Nationwide Vaccinations | The Final Phase of the Response

Just one week ago, Costa Rica began administering the second dose of its initial round of vaccinations to staff and residents at retirement or nursing homes, as well as first responders and health personnel, signaling the beginning of Costa Rica’s final phase of decisive pandemic response. 

In early 2020, Costa Rica was one of the last countries on the planet to record a covid case due to immediate border control and travel restrictions. 

Even after recording its first cases, Costa Rica earned plaudits around the world for its organized, intelligent, and cohesive pandemic response, which helped flatten the curve, keep case and fatality numbers low, and prevent the national healthcare system from being overrun.

Now, with a vaccine rollout in steady progress, Costa Rica stands in a favorable position worldwide as it aims to turn the corner on this pandemic for good.

Free Vaccinations for Individuals 58+

Next in the upcoming rollout is an even more expansive vaccination plan. Starting in March, public health officials will begin contacting every resident and citizen over 58 to offer vaccinations completely free of charge. 

Public health officials have recommended that any citizen or resident that qualifies can call their local Ebais (community health clinic) to register as part of the contact list for this vaccination plan, which will be administered in two doses a few weeks apart.

Note: This rollout does not apply to tourists, who will have to wait for a privately available vaccine.

Currently, the priority list for Costa Rica is as follows, with descending priority: 

  • Staff and residents at retirement or nursing homes
  • First responders, including health personnel
  • Costa Rica’s older population, defined here as those ages 58 and up
  • People with risk factors, including hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, respiratory illness, kidney disease and obesity, among others
  • Teachers and other staff within the Education Ministry (MEP)
  • Imprisoned people and judicial staff
  • Workers for the 911 service
  • Health science students and related technicians in clinical fields
  • People ages 40-57 without any of the aforementioned risk factors but whose work puts them in contact with others. This includes laborers in agriculture, construction, service industries, etc.

Costa Rica’s Vaccine Rollout by the Numbers

According to officials at Caja and the National Commission of Vaccination and Epidemiology, Costa Rica:

  • Has already received 87,750 doses, which are in the process of being administered
  • Has an agreement to purchase 3 million doses, enough to immunize 1.5 million people, or 80% of the adult population, including everyone with known risk factors
  • Has budget allocated in 2021 for another 1.3 million doses. This will bring the full number of vaccinated individuals up to 2.1 million, which is enough to cover the entire adult population of Costa Rica

Why Costa Rica Was Primed to Respond

There were several factors that contributed to this response. 

The first was Costa Rica’s self-sustaining nature. Reports stated at one point during the heart of the pandemic that Costa Rica had enough food stockpiled to safely lockdown for up to six years in any worst-case scenario, helping support the confidence to go into lockdown.

The second was Costa Rica’s investments into social good. Starting in the 1940s with the abolition of the military, renewing in the 1980s with decisive environmental protection, Costa Rica has consistently made long term decisions to support the good of its people.

Of course, no country is perfect, but even as Costa Rica has struggled with some recent financial reforms, this consistent value of the good of the people has bred a cultural trust in the system and the value of social good that allowed for a precise response.

In a recent article, we mentioned that Costa Rica is steadily making the transition from an up and coming nation to a country that has become a decisive player on the world stage. 

As many countries have struggled to come up with funding, or been unable to implement an effective rollout, Costa Rica has secured the vital vaccinations that will bring the pandemic to a close, and hopes to return the thriving business, travel, and way of life that it has become known for around the world.