Vaccination begins in an oxygen-starved city in the Brazilian Amazon


RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) – The Amazonian city of Manaus began vaccinating against coronoviruses, providing a ray of hope for the largest city in the rainforest whose health system is collapsing amid infections and increasing oxygen supplies.

Amazonas State Gov. Wilson Lima led a ceremony that called off the vaccination campaign Monday night in Manaus, a isolated riverbank of 2.2 million people.

Wanda Ortega, 33, a member of the Witoto ethnicity and a nurse technician, received the first dose of Coronavac, a vaccine developed by Beijing-based biopharmaceutical company Synovac.

“I want to thank God and our ancestors,” said Ortega, who is also a volunteer nurse in her indigenous community.

Brazil began its national immunization program on Monday with 6 million doses of Coronavac in about a dozen states, and hopes to receive 46 million doses by April to distribute to the states. Amazon received 256,000 doses.

The state government on Tuesday started distributing the doses to the civic bodies. Priority in the first vaccination phase will be health workers, elderly people above 80 years and indigenous people in about 265 villages.

According to official figures, the Amazon has recorded at least 232,000 cases of the virus since the onset of the pandemic. The state is in the midst of a devastating resurgence of infections and a lack of oxygen supply.

Manaus hospitals have admitted some new COVID-19 patients, with many suffering from illness at home and some have died. And many doctors in Manaus had to choose which COVID-19 patients could breathe, while desperate family members searched for oxygen tanks for their loved ones.

According to officials, four Brazilian Air Force flights per day are being received in the city with an average oxygen stock as well as one shipment daily from the city of Belem, at the mouth of the Amazon River.

The government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, whom Bolsonaro regularly criticizes, authorized the dispatch of caravans of trucks loaded with 107,000 cubic meters (3,78 million cubic feet) of oxygen, which Tuesday in the Amazonas Is about to come Government.

When Amazon welcomed the endorsement, Bolsaro also criticized Maduro.

“If you want to offer us oxygen, we will get it without any problems,” Bolsonaro said on Monday. “But he (Maduro) can also give emergency assistance to his people, right? Half a kilo of rice is not bought in the minimum wage.”

The Brazilian Ministry of Health sent seven oxygen-generating plants on Sunday, which, once installed, will supply oxygen to 100 ICUs.

The government of Amazonas on Monday transferred 18 patients by plane to Goise State. According to the state Health Secretariat, the state had already transferred 112 patients for treatment in the Federal District, Brasilia and other states.

The health system in Manaus collapsed, which had already gone through a critical situation last April, sparking criticism from the government for allegedly not anticipating problems. Thousands of people staged protests in cities across Brazil on Friday, the same day that showed desperate families searching for oxygen for their loved ones.

Health Minister Eduardo Pazuelo admitted on Monday that the federal government knew on January 8 that oxygen supplies could run out in the Amazon capital, a week before people died in intensive care beds. Pazuelo said that in the last days the pace of hospitals increased significantly and the supplier company was unable to meet the demand.

A new strain of coronovirus is spreading in Manaus. There are concerns about greater efficacy or potential for reintegration, although such possibilities are unsafe.

A positive coronavirus test does not reveal which virus the patient has, but some epidemiologists have speculated that the new strain is at least partially responsible for driving the second wave of Manaus.

Jessem Orellana, an epidemiologist at the public research institute Focruz Amazonia, said that the increase in deaths in Manaus is not necessarily due to the new mutation of coronovirus.

“Since October, congestion problems have arisen in hospitals. Orella told The Associated Press that people do not get the chance to arrive early and be hospitalized late.

“There is a chaotic situation everywhere, malignancy is high, but not necessarily due to the severity of the infectious agent, but rather due to other factors: there are fewer doctors, health professionals are weary, drugs are lacking and ICUs are overwhelmed. Are, ”Orellana added. “All this creates a climate that favors premature death.”

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Associated Press Video Journalist Fernando Crispim in Manaus contributed to this report.

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