Coronavirus in Chile: The country relies on the Chinese SinoVac vaccine, seeing variants, and increasing cases


At the same time, new cases of coronavirus infection are increasing. The country has reported more than 7,000 daily cases nine times this month, surpassing its peak in the first wave of 6,938 last July, and has sounded the alarm for the United States and other countries that have advanced the vaccination curve.

Chile, Friday, published its study of CoronaVac’s effectiveness in the country, with more promising results than some had expected. It showed that of the 10.5 million people who followed them from February 2 to April 1 – a third of whom received the two doses – hospitalizations were reduced by 85 percent and admissions to the ICU by 89 percent two weeks after the second dose.

However, among those who took only the first dose, protection was significantly lower, indicating a need to maintain restrictions and hygiene protocols.

The vaccination campaign in Chile benefited from an advanced public health system, with clinics in some remote areas, and a national immunization program that distributes influenza vaccines and childhood vaccines every year. The government has signed contracts for millions of doses of Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca, and Johnson & Johnson.

But its biggest partner was Sinovac, the Chinese manufacturer of CoronaVac, which provided 87 percent of the doses taken so far. Health officials are now considering a third dose of the vaccine.

Ann Schuchat, lead deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has warned that the fight against the Coronavirus is far from over.

“In the United States, as is the case in many parts of the world where there are ongoing vaccination efforts, we continue to see increased cases and hospitalizations due to the relaxation of prevention protocols, the increase in covid-19 variants, and the increasing burden on health – care systems,” she said.

This virus is highly transmissible and remains a largely global health threat. … vaccination efforts alone are not the solution to this global problem – it is a major component. “

Now, more than two-thirds of Chile’s provinces, including all of the capital, which is home to 6 million people, are locked down under strict lockdown. The country’s medical association has warned that the health system, which this week has fallen below 200 critical care beds nationwide, could be overrun due to the increase, and called on people to stay home when possible.

For nearly a year, Matthias Leboy has been working two or three shifts 24 hours a week, one of which is in the Covid-19 ward of El Carmen Hospital in Maipo, Santiago. All 59 intensive care beds are equipped with busy ventilation devices.

“We are tired, tired and exhausted,” said the 30-year-old doctor. “The past few weeks have been very difficult and have had a psychological effect on all of us. In my case, I’ve been receiving treatment since last year.”

One in four doctors on their staff took time off work in the past month, to report stress or other mental health problems.

Near the hospital is the home of the 25-year-old family of Vanessa Duarte Barrios. She and her father contracted the virus. They did not meet the eligibility criteria for state income support plans and kept leaving home for work.

“Many Chileans are not able to stay at home or work remotely as we are told,” she said. “I have to work in a supermarket six days a week because I need an income.”

However, she says she is frustrated by “the many people who go out to socialize. … it shows a real lack of empathy.”

The capital’s streets were more congested than during the first wave, and exhaustion crept in among Chileans who were asked to endure one of the world’s longest closures, including a nightly curfew that lasted more than a year.

The Karabineros police force arrested more than 900 people, between the ages of 23 and 27, in illegal gatherings in the first two weeks of April alone. People diagnosed with covid-19 in a closed area without a permit or a valid waiver face up to $ 17,650 in fines and five years in prison. However, police say they have broken up more than double the number of illegal gatherings this year compared to the whole of 2020.

“There is no acceptable excuse,” said General Esteban Diaz Urbina, head of national security for the Carpabineros. “No one attends these events out of necessity, but out of irresponsibility.”

While the Health Ministry has been firm in insisting that people should not let their guard down, the message has been toned down by the government that has allowed malls, gyms and theaters to reopen.

Summer vacation has also had an effect. From January to March, the government issued permits allowing Chileans to travel all over the country, except in areas under lockdown, resulting in the virus spreading widely and building pressure on the health system.

Authorities continued to allow most international travel. Santiago airport remained open throughout the summer; Cheap return flights to Miami, the Dominican Republic, and Brazil have allowed the viral variants to enter the country.

By the time the airport was closed to non-resident foreigners this month, the Health Ministry confirmed that all variants from Brazil, Britain, Nigeria and California had been detected in the country.

The Peobio region, which has a population of 1.5 million people in southern Chile, has seen a sharp rise in the number of cases blamed on travelers returning home. Leonela Ferreira, head of the intensive care unit at Guillermo Grant Benavente Hospital in Concepcion, the region’s capital, said her patients are now much younger on average than they were during the first wave.

“Continuing to allow people to travel abroad was a huge mistake,” she said. “I have introduced new variants that Chile has been slow to discover and contain.”

Concerns about CoronaVac’s effectiveness have increased uncertainty about early vaccination success in the country. Chile signed a three-year agreement for 60 million doses and paid $ 3.5 million to host an experiment.

Although the protection afforded by the first dose appears weak, the Chile study emphasized the need for vaccination efforts to go forward.

Raphael Araus, a member of the government advisory committee on Covid-19 who presented the study, said that the CoronaVac vaccine “protects against accidental infection of covid-19, as well as from the most severe forms of the disease.” “We must not forget that as part of the vaccination campaign, it is not only about the vaccine, but also other public health measures.”

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