Mass Covid-19 vaccination drive carried out for 1st time in Brazilian favela

By Maria Angelica Troncoso

Rio de Janeiro, Jul 29 (EFE).- Hope has taken hold in Rio de Janeiro’s largest favela (shantytown) complex, an overcrowded and crime-ridden area that has become the first community of its type in Brazil to be the target of a mass vaccination drive.

In a campaign that is part of a study aimed at gauging the direct and indirect effectiveness of immunization programs in low-income, high-population districts, more than 30,000 people will be inoculated against Covid-19 in the Mare complex starting Thursday.

“This vaccine will change everything … Without immunization, it would be over for us. With it, we have hope,” Mariana, a 19-year-old waitress, told Efe.

The campaign will run through Sunday in Mare, a complex of 16 favelas on Rio de Janeiro’s north side that is home to nearly 140,000 people, a population bigger than that of 96 percent of Brazil’s municipalities.

Roughly 1,000 health care professionals will be deployed to medical centers, schools and other vaccination points in Mare, where they are to immunize 31,000 people between the ages of 18 and 34 over the next four days. Some 1,600 volunteers also will participate in the effort.

All of those individuals will be administered the University of Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, which is being produced in Brazil by the Rio-based Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz), Latin America’s leading medical research center.

The initiative is the result of a collaborative effort that was launched a year ago to halt the spread of the coronavirus in that community and has involved the Redes da Mare non-governmental organization, the Rio de Janeiro Health Secretariat and Fiocruz, which is heading up the study.

Fiocruz experts say the effectiveness of mass vaccination campaigns will be analyzed within the specific context of Mare, where the majority of the population (51 percent) is below the age of 30.

They added that the study also will take into account the fact that some Mare residents (older adults and people with comorbidities) are already fully inoculated or are awaiting a second vaccine dose.

“We’ve never (conducted a mass vaccination campaign) in a community with these characteristics. Mare is hectic, chaotic; it’s an area where at the start of the pandemic the mortality rate was double that of Rio de Janeiro as a whole, which was the highest among Brazil’s (state) capitals,” Fernando Bozza, a Fiocruz researcher and coordinator of the Mare study, told Efe.

Since the onset of the health emergency in Brazil in early 2020, 317 deaths are attributed to Covid-19 in Mare and 6,800 people there are confirmed to have been infected with the coronavirus.

The study, which will run for six months, will assess the vaccination drive’s direct and indirect effectiveness by tracking both those who were immunized and those who were not. A key goal is to determine whether administration of the vaccine to adults prevents the virus from spreading to minors.

It also will look at the vaccine’s side effects and its effectiveness in halting the spread of new variants. A particular focal point will be the rapidly spreading delta variant, which experts say is currently the most contagious version of the coronavirus worldwide. EFE


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