Brazil Cities Run Out of Covid Shots a Month Into Vaccinations
(Bloomberg) -- Brazilian cities including Rio de Janeiro risk halting vaccinations against Covid-19 as the supply of shots runs out and prospects for the delivery of new doses remain murky.
On the eve of Carnival, local authorities are begging people stay home to avoid an explosion of cases. Festivities were canceled in Rio and Sao Paulo, where governor Joao Doria also scrapped the holiday for civil servants, but there’s concern travel and large gatherings over the four-day weekend will increase transmission.
On Thursday, Brazil reported 1,351 deaths and 54,742 new cases from the disease, showing the virus is still raging in Latin America’s largest country.
“We wait for good news over the weekend to keep moving forward,” Eduardo Paes, the mayor of Rio, said at a press conference Friday. According him, the shots at hand are enough for only a few more days.
In Niteroi, a neighboring city, the local government already had to suspend immunizations for a day this week, with the mayor taking to social media on Wednesday to say vaccines had run out. The city got more doses the following day, but has only enough to vaccinate people 88 and older.
The shortages come less than a month into Brazil’s vaccination campaign, which has been marred by delays and political infighting. The country, home to over 210 million people, began immunizations in mid-January with only 6 million doses of Sinovac Biotech Ltd’s CoronaVac at hand. Data from local governments show about 4.5 million shots had already been administered by Feb. 11.
Rules differ according to states and municipalities, but Brazil has generally made vaccines available only to health professionals and the elderly.
Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello, who’s been widely criticized for his handling of the pandemic, said at a Senate hearing on Thursday that all Brazilians will be vaccinated in 2021.
While some local governments continue to deploy shots at a rapid pace -- the state of Sao Paulo has already used more than 1.3 million doses, and is pushing priority groups forward -- problems are beginning to emerge across the country.
Florianopolis, in the South of Brazil, said in a statement it has enough shots for three or four days -- after that, the campaign will be suspended until the Health Ministry delivers more doses. In Bahia, the largest state in the Northeast, 81.5% of the doses delivered have already been used. That was only enough to reach 8.5% of the 5 million people that are part of the first priority groups.
“Unfortunately, there is no official timetable for resupply by the Health Ministry,” Fabio Villas-Boas, Bahia’s health secretary, said in an e-mailed response to questions. “That makes impossible to meet the vaccination goals.”
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.