TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) — The leader of Honduras' Private Business Council said Wednesday that businessmen will try to buy as many as 1.5 million doses of coronavirus vaccines to assist in government vaccination efforts.
Council President Juan Carlos Sikaffy said the government had agreed to the plan, which would provide the vaccines at no cost to recipients and work through public health agencies.
“For the first and I believe the only time in Latin America, the private sector is working actively to negotiate, identify and import vaccines,” Sikaffy said.
“I think we should take up this unavoidable role to rescue the country’s economy,” he said, adding the government “has not been sufficiently effective in rapidly addressing the serious problem.”
The Honduran government has so far been able to obtain only about 52,000 doses. It had announced a deal in March for 4.2 million doses of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, but they have not arrived so far.
But health experts expressed concern, questioning whether the companies will be interested in vaccinating the poorest people in remote areas.
Suyapa Sosa, a doctor who heads the pulmonology department at the country's leading cardio-pulmonary institute, said, “Even though we do recognize the private-sector initiative in the face of the government's inability to handle the pandemic, private companies are worried about their personnel, their companies, and their money.”
“They are going to vaccinate the people they are interested in, those with insurance coverage, and the poor patient in outlying districts will not be vaccinated,” she predicted.
It is not clear how the business group would acquire vaccines, almost all of which to date have been acquired by national governments directly from manufacturers.
It would not be the first time Honduran businessmen have tried to buy vaccines. In March, authorities in Mexico seized 1,155 vials containing 5,700 doses of purported Sputnik 5 vaccine found in false bottoms of ice chests aboard a private plane bound for Honduras. The Russian vaccine’s distributor said they were not real Sputnik V.
A Honduran company, Grupo Karim’s, said later in a statement that the vaccine was not intended to be sold in Honduras, but rather to be given free to its employees and their families. The company said its employees had been hit hard by the pandemic and it was looking for a way to help them.