The global rollout of coronavirus vaccination in Chile fails to stop the spread of Covid-19 as most of the country shuts down, with many blaming the use of the CoronaVac shots in China.
On Thursday, the narrow South American country, hemmed in by the Andes Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, had given more than six million people – nearly a third of the population – a single dose and 3.1 million both doses, including most people over 70.
And yet that same day, the government detained more than 80 percent of the country’s 19 million people.
With new virus variants believed to be more contagious spreading across the continent, cases in Chile have skyrocketed, despite the push for vaccination.
On Thursday, 7,000 new cases passed in the past 24 hours: the second-highest daily figure.
In comparison, in the UK – which has so far vaccinated a similar percentage of its population with a combination of the Pfizer / BioNTech and Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccines – infections have dropped to a rate not seen since September.
The global introduction of coronavirus vaccination in Chile fails to stop the spread of Covid-19 as most of the country is shut down. Pictured: A man passes a Chilean national flag before the start of a quarantine period to slow the spread of the coronavirus, in a square in front of the La Moneda presidential palace in Santiago, Chile, March 26, 2021
Chile uses the Chinese CoronaVac vaccine and the Pfizer / BioNTech and had administered 49.26 doses of the vaccine per 100 people as of March 25, while the UK had administered 47.62 of the vaccine doses per 100 people.
But as of March 26, there was a seven-day moving average of 330.82 new coronavirus cases per million people in Chile. In the UK, the rate was only 84.08 per million.
“They are phenomena that run in completely different tracks,” Darwin Acuna, the president of the Chilean Intensive Medicine Association, told AFP about the apparent gap between high vaccination and infection rates in the country.
President Sebastian Pinera has urged the country to make ‘one last attempt’ and authorities expect the vaccination attempt to bear fruit next month.
Health Minister Enrique Paris said the lockdown is “difficult but necessary,” especially in the metropolitan area of Santiago – Chile’s most densely populated area.
The country has recorded more than 950,000 infections and more than 22,500 deaths from Covid-19.
Chile started vaccinating health workers on December 24, and from February 3 it started with the general population, initially the over 90s.
This came after it signed an agreement to purchase 20 million doses of the Chinese CoronaVac vaccine, which was approved for emergency use on Jan. 20.
So far, the majority of doses administered have been CoronaVac, which provides only 50 percent protection against Covid-19, meaning that out of every 100 people vaccinated with two doses of CoronaVac, 50 are at risk of infection.
Although the vaccine will reduce the intensity of the symptoms and thereby significantly reduce the risk of hospitalization in most cases, vaccinated individuals can still spread the virus.
The European Union and other countries, such as the UK and US, have not approved CoronaVac because it has not been proven to be sufficiently effective.
Many blame the use of the CorovaVac shots in China in the rising cases in Chile, despite the world’s leading number of vaccinations. Pictured: People cross a street before a quarantine period begins to slow the spread of the coronavirus, in a square in front of the La Moneda presidential palace in Santiago, Chile, March 26, 2021
The use of CoronaVac, combined with a general relaxation of attitudes in the country as a result of the vaccination campaign and summer holidays, as well as the advent of new virus variants, has sparked a new wave of infections.
“You can’t see the effect of the vaccine on the most risky people yet, because for the most risky people, they’ve only just had the second dose,” Acuna said.
He expects to see ‘a real effect on the need for intensive care beds for the most risky people’ in mid-April.
Health authorities say they have noticed a difference in the identities of those occupying intensive care beds since the first wave of the pandemic: patients are younger and sicker.
‘It seems more aggressive than last year. There are patients who go straight to the ICU and receive oxygen, Hector Ugarte, chief physician of the adult patient ward at a hospital in the coastal city of Coquimbo, told AFP.
The age of those needing hospital treatment has fallen “ hugely, ” the Health Ministry said – because the youngsters “ have not been careful. ”
On Thursday, the Chilean government detained more than 80 percent of the country’s 19 million residents. This is despite the fact that more than six million people have given a single dose and 3.1 million have given both doses, including most people over 70. That is about a third of the population
On Thursday, authorities said they had discovered 45 cases of the Brazilian variant of the new coronavirus, after discovering the British variant in February.
ICU beds are 95 percent occupied, even in places like Coquimbo, 460 kilometers north of Santiago.
Before March 2020, it had eight IC beds, but now there are 38 and this week 46 people had to be treated in hospital for Covid-19.
The government’s goal is to immunize 15 million people by June 30 to achieve the coveted “herd immunity” when a sufficiently large proportion of the population is resistant to a pathogen that cannot be spread anywhere.
On Thursday, authorities had given nearly 6.1 million people a first dose of the Chinese CoronaVac or Pfizer injections.
Teachers, firefighters, the chronically ill, journalists, public sector workers, pharmacy workers and telecom workers have already received a first dose. Most health workers and the elderly have had two.
With new virus variants believed to be more contagious spreading across the continent, cases in Chile have skyrocketed, despite the push for vaccination. Pictured: A woman uses an escalator at a main metro entrance as local town halls increased lockdown restrictions during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Santiago, Chile, March 25, 2021
Despite the high infection rate, there is a lot of optimism.
In a retirement home in southern Chile, where residents and staff received an initial vaccination dose in the opening week of February, a subsequent coronavirus outbreak at the facility infected 70 people. The only death was a resident who had not been vaccinated.
There is also a lot of hope in hospitals.
Ugarte said that during the worst stages of last year’s pandemic, the hospital in Coquimbo saw between 150 and 170 of its 1,700 employees infected with Covid-19.
“Now that 80 percent of the staff has been fully vaccinated for a few weeks, there is one!” he added, calling it “the first major demonstration” of the vaccine’s impact.