Santiago, Oct 27 (EFE).- Lines of more than three hours formed Wednesday at different vaccination centers in Chile’s capital, as hundreds of people waited to receive their Covid-19 booster shots.
The extremely large turnout led authorities to take steps to bolster that immunization reinforcement program.
“Some vaccine centers will open on weekends, and outdoor strategies (at mobile facilities) will be maintained. We’re going to support the communes (cities and towns) where demand is highest,” the deputy public health secretary, Paula Daza, said.
Centers have strained to meet demand since the third Covid-19 vaccine doses were made available more than 15 days ago for people 55 and younger, and crowds have grown even larger this week, particularly in Santiago.
“I’ve visited three centers this morning, and they tell me there’s only space for those who arrive before 7 am,” Felipe Castellano, a university professor, told Efe.
“In my work, I don’t have permission to be away for four hours, which is how long the lines are,” Marta Velasco, a shop assistant, lamented at a vaccine center in Santiago’s Ñuñoa neighborhood.
Chile has one of the world’s highest vaccination rates, with more than 13.2 million of its 19 million inhabitants having been administered the full two-dose series of China’s Sinovac or, to a lesser extent, the Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca-University of Oxford or CanSino Covid-19 vaccines.
The country, which also is vaccinating minors as young as six, began rolling out the booster shot in August and has already administered it to more than 5.2 million people.
“We’re asking everyone to be as responsible as possible. They’re already increasing the numbers, and it’s time to receive the booster dose,” said Daza, who denied that the vaccines are in short supply.
Chile appeared for months to have the pandemic under control but now is seeing a slight uptick in coronavirus infections and currently is reporting more than 10,000 active cases for the first time since July.
Six Covid-19 deaths and 1,753 new coronavirus cases were registered over the past 24 hours, bringing the country’s totals since the start of the pandemic to 37,697 fatalities and nearly 1.69 million confirmed cases, respectively.
The case positivity rate (percentage of positive results from PCR tests) climbed above 3 percent for the second consecutive day, although authorities say hospitals are not under pressure and that fewer than 500 people are currently in intensive care units.
Health officials, however, began taking steps Monday to try to reduce the case load, announcing a reduction in the maximum allowable size of social gatherings in Santiago – from 50 to 25 – and stepping up their campaign to administer booster shots (a third dose of Covid-19 vaccine).
Chilean President Sebastian Piñera said that same day that more restrictions will be placed on the 1.2 million adults nationwide who have not yet been vaccinated. EFE