BOGOTA, Colombia

The Chilean Public Health Institute authorized on Wednesday the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for emergency use. 

Chile becomes the first South American country to approve the vaccine, which will be applied to the population aged 16 and older.

The agency said “Chile is prepared to receive the Pfizer vaccine” to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, which has taken nearly 16,000 lives in the country.

Twenty-two doctors and pharmaceutical chemists voted unanimously to approve the vaccine on Wednesday.

The first batch of 30,000 doses is expected to arrive in a week, and vaccination could start on Dec. 24. Health authorities estimate it would supply nearly enough doses to inoculate 15,000 people. The first doses of the vaccine will be given to health workers.

Authorities have encouraged people to keep wearing face masks and practice social distancing, considering that it may not be possible to complete the vaccination campaign by 2021.

The Pfizer vaccine has already received regulatory approval in the UK, the US, Canada, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

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