Lack of oxygen, drugs for Covid patients in overflowing Brazilian ICUs

By Carlos Meneses Sánchez

Sao Paulo, Mar 21 (efe-epa).- Brazil fears further collapse of the public health system due to the lack of oxygen and medicines in some intensive care units amid a nationwide Covid-19 surge, while seeking to give a push to its slow vaccination campaign with the arrival Sunday of the first batch of doses from the global Covax facility.

Regional governors have warned about the possibility of a “collapse within the collapse” that the public health system is experiencing as a result of the surge of infections that has hit the entire country. The increasing saturation of hospitals has caused a shortage of intubation kits.

The ICUs of 25 of the 27 Brazilian states have an occupancy rate equal to or greater than 80 percent, and in 15 states it is already 90 percent, which has caused these vitally important medical supplies to become scarce.

Brazil has recorded almost 12 million infections and 295,000 deaths from Covid-19, according to official data. In five days this week, there were more than 2,400 daily deaths associated with the disease and the forecasts do not point to an improvement in the short term, rather, the opposite.

This week, the National Front of Mayors, which groups together Brazilian municipal leaders, warned that oxygen reserves in at least 76 cities are close to depletion.

The Attorney General’s Office also alerted the Ministry of Health that the Amazonian states of Acre and Rondonia, in the north, may begin to suffer shortages as of Wednesday of next week. In other parts of the country, there have also been problems with the supply of oxygen.

In Sao Paulo, the worst hit Brazilian city with almost 600,000 cases and more than 20,000 deaths, a dozen patients were transferred this weekend to another hospital due to a delay in the delivery of oxygen cylinders.In the Porto Alegre metropolitan area, the authorities reported the death of six people also due to “problems in the distribution of oxygen.”

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health is still in the process of transition since last Monday, president and Covid-19 skeptic Jair Bolsonaro announced his fourth health minister since the beginning of the pandemic, the cardiologist Marcelo Queiroga. However, Queiroga has not yet officially assumed the portfolio, as the country consecutively breaks its records of deaths and infections.

The vaccination campaign began in mid-January and so far only 5.5 percent of the population have received the first dose, and the second only 2 percent. Given this sluggish pace, due in part to a shortage of immunizers, the Ministry of Health released Sunday vaccines that were originally reserved for the second dose.

The same day, the first batch of vaccines from the Covax facility arrived at in Sao Paulo – 1 million doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford University drug produced by a South Korean laboratory. Two million more doses are expected by the end of the month. EFE-EPA


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