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CORRECTED (OFFICIAL)-Chilean president hails Pfizer success, and his country's vaccine purchase agreement

(Corrects to amend erroneous Pfizer manufacturing timeline reported by Chilean science minister in paragraph 9)

SANTIAGO, Nov 9 (Reuters) - Chile’s President Sebastian Pinera said on Monday his country was in a “privileged and opportune” position to be able to roll out a COVID-19 vaccination campaign early next year after Pfizer Inc announced an experimental vaccine that was more than 90% effective.

Pinera said Pfizer’s trial vaccine was among a number for whom he had already signed purchase deals and had logistical and distribution plans in place to roll out, once they receive international and domestic regulators’ approval.

“I expect that, in the final analysis, it will be seen that Chile was hit hard by the pandemic and the global recession but managed to face it with unity, will and results that put Chile in a privilege position not only in the context of Latin America but also the world,” said Pinera.

Pfizer and German partner BioNTech SE are the first drugmakers to release successful data from a large-scale clinical trial of a coronavirus vaccine.

Chile has a deal to buy 10 million doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine and also to purchase 14.4 million doses from AstraZeneca, and 60 million over three years from Sinovac, both of whom are testing for COVID-19 vaccines in the country. It has also signed up for 7.6 million doses through the global vaccine distribution scheme COVAX, co-led by the GAVI vaccines alliance and the WHO.

The Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine uses messenger RNA (mRNA) technology which relies on synthetic genes that can be generated and manufactured in weeks and produced at more rapid scale than conventional vaccines.

Chilean science minister Andres Couve told Reuters the deal with Pfizer had a delivery schedule starting from next year but added the use of messenger RNA was an emerging and modern technology, and therefore must be analyzed very carefully.

He said the U.S. could designate the emergency roll-out of the Pfizer vaccine for its own 331 million-person population as soon as November.

“Pfizer has indicated that manufacturing has begun and that there could be 50 million doses of this vaccine this year and up to 1.3 billion by 2021,” he said.

“As a country, we have been working for a long time on a comprehensive strategy for a safe and timely vaccine. The Ministry of Health is ready to implement vaccination plans once we have the necessary approvals to start with this treatment in the shortest time possible.”

Russia’s health ministry said also on Monday its own COVID-19 vaccine, Sputnik V, was more than 90% effective, citing data collated from vaccinations of the public rather than from an ongoing trial.

In an interview on Friday, Couve told Reuters that Chile’s scientific advisory team had met with Sputnik’s developers but decided it was “not among the most promising” products available.

“Vaccines take a long time, often the first version of a vaccine is not necessarily the one that is most effective, it requires rounds of improvement,” he said. “We are keeping these conversations open with developers who could offer opportunities in the future.” (Reporting by Aislinn Laing Editing by Chris Reese)

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