Indigenous people in Bolivia express concern about “missing” vaccine Reuters

© Reuters. On July 23, 2021, in Uruchipaya, Bolivia, a woman who had been vaccinated against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) was asked to hold a frame that said “I have been vaccinated against COVID-19.” REUTERS/Claudia Morales

Authors: Monica Marchkau and Santiago Limarch

Uruchipaya, Bolivia (Reuters)-On the high desert plains of Uruchipaya, Bolivia, Fausto Lopez put on his best clothes and was excited to finally receive the COVID-19 vaccine .

Lopez and his wife Petronila Mollo went to the main square where they planned to carry out a mass vaccination there after the government said it would provide a batch of single-dose Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:) Janssen vaccines to remote indigenous communities.

A large number of media, including reporters from Reuters, have been invited to report this good news.

However, it did not proceed as planned.

The expected vaccine did not arrive. Despite holding a sign that read “I have been vaccinated against COVID-19”, most people were not vaccinated, and only a few volunteers were vaccinated with the Chinese vaccines already in town. Lopez left disappointedly.

“When the vaccine came out, people were a little nervous about it, but then the vaccine was gone, people were not vaccinated, and that’s what happened,” Lopez said.

Often far away from major urban centers—Uru Chipaya is about an 8-hour drive from La Paz—Indigenous communities in Latin America are often left behind by the region’s shaky vaccination program.

In the mountains of western Bolivia, men farm and fish, and women skillfully knit wool into handicrafts for sale.

Its very remote place retains its lifestyle, but during the coronavirus pandemic, it also created obstacles for obtaining vaccines. Vaccines usually need to be stored carefully and vaccinated twice over a long period of time.

Reuters trackers show that the socialist government of Bolivia has so far received more than 3.1 million doses of vaccine. Assuming that each person needs two doses, this is enough to satisfy about 13.5% of its population.

However, although some difficult-to-reach indigenous peoples have begun to vaccinate, including legislator Cecilia Moyoviri (Cecilia Moyoviri) and local activist Alex Villca (Alex Villca) Indigenous leaders criticized the vaccine shortage in these communities.

“There is an imbalance in the distribution of vaccines,” Toribia Leiro, head of the Indigenous Peoples Committee of the Bolivian House of Commons, told Reuters.

“There is still no data on how to distribute vaccines to indigenous communities. In many cases, the ministry went to a town or met with the top leadership just to take pictures.”

Osman Calvimontes Subieta of the Ministry of Health said: “Vaccines are guaranteed…We should recognize that our local authorities in indigenous areas are setting an example.”

He declined to comment on why the promised dose of vaccine did not reach Uluchipaya.

Facing the delay of the Russian Sputnik-5 vaccine, the government has turned to Sinopharm and obtained a single dose of Janssen vaccine through the COVAX mechanism to help ensure the supply of vaccines to developing countries and promised to supply these vaccines to rural areas.

Leiro said that lawmakers will investigate what happened in Uluchipaya.

“We will investigate this because it is unlikely that indigenous people will be at risk again,” she said.

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