By Gabriel Romano
La Paz/Santa Cruz, Jul 1 (EFE).- The first day of Covid-19 vaccination in Bolivia for those aged over 18 took place Thursday amid selfies, coordination between groups of friends and the making of plans for a return to “normality” among young people seeking to defeat the pandemic.
“I think it’s super,” 19-year-old Karen Sirpa said in La Paz when asked by EFE about the government’s announcement Wednesday night to lower the age range of vaccination amid the risk of a fourth wave of infections.
The vaccinations at some health centers, such as the Faculty of Medicine in La Paz and the Gabriel René Moreno university in Santa Cruz, was for many an event worthy of being published on Instagram or spread by WhatsApp.
Aneliesse, 22, from Santa Cruz, the most populated city in the country and one of the most affected by the virus, told EFE that the main reason why she went to get vaccinated on the first day is because she studies medicine and it is essential to attend face-to-face classes.
Ariel Echeverría took the news with optimism in La Paz and was encouraged to join a long line under the heat of the sun since he has a basic health condition and it is a priority to get vaccinated as his family depends on him.
For Angela, 29, it is still necessary to “try to encourage the elderly to get vaccinated” because she considers it a priority to recover some of the normality lived prior to the pandemic.
The government has set itself the task of immunizing 96 percent of around 7.5 million Bolivians aged over 18 years, said Vice Minister of Foreign Trade Benjamín Blanco in a appearance before the media in La Paz.
The previous night, President Luis Arce announced that Bolivia will acquire 6 million Sinopharm vaccine doses that will begin to arrive this month at intervals of 1 million every 10 days.
These are in addition to the 4 million doses that Bolivia has already acquired through various channels such as AstraZeneca and Pfizer through the Covax facility, and separately, doses of Sputnik V and Sinopharm.
The government made this new announcement despite the fact that in December last year and early January, it signed contracts for 5.2 million Sputnik V doses and another 5 million AstraZeneneca doses, which were not fulfilled due to international demand.
For the president of the Bolivian Medical College, Luis Larrea, the extension of vaccination to people over 18 “does not mean anything” while there is no “strategic vaccination plan.”
He stressed that the priority should be to apply immunizations “where there is a greater concentration of people.”
Some specialists have said that Bolivia is in the “de-escalation” phase of the third wave that began in May, but in the opinion of Larrea, there is the risk that it will go “directly to the fourth” wave if there is no planning and amid more contagious coronavirus variants.
Since the beginning of the pandemic in January last year, Bolivia has accumulated 16,767 deaths and 439,624 confirmed cases, of which 61,931 remain active. EFE