At a crossroads, a brand new blue sign indicates the direction to follow. “Drive-in vaccination”, can we read in Portuguese, an arrow pointing to the right. But at the end of February, at the entrance to the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, symbolically located on Avenue Pasteur in the Botafogo district, no syringe or nurse on the horizon. And even less vaccine.

Yet it is here, on this tree-lined campus, that a vast immunization campaign against Covid-19 should have taken place every weekend, aimed at the oldest Cariocas, who came to queue in their car. But the vaccine shortage will have decided otherwise: “We haven’t been vaccinating for several days now. Come back in a week! “, intimate one of the caretakers.

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One week ? In the best case. A month after its start with a bang, the national vaccination campaign has stalled. In the second global focus of the epidemic, only 7 million Brazilians had received their first dose as of February 21, barely 3.3% of the population. Not enough to stop, or even slow down the mad rush of the coronavirus, which has already killed nearly 250,000 people in the country.

Due to a lack of doses to administer, several cities, including the five regional capitals – including Rio and Salvador – had to abruptly stop the process in mid-February. The administration of the first doses was not done without scandals, with poor distribution of stocks, fraud in queues or even “false injections”, administered using empty syringes, filled with air.

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Bolsonaro, a notorious anti-vaccine

This great disorder calls out all the more because it occurs in a country which was for years a world reference in the fight against epidemics. In 1973, Brazil set up a national vaccination program, centralized and proactive, and succeeded in eradicating polio, tetanus, measles and rubella within a few years. Better: the Latin American giant now produces 75% of the vaccines it consumes. A source of pride for Brazilians, eight in ten of whom say they want to be vaccinated against Covid-19. One of the highest rates in the world.

“For H1N1, in 2009, we were able to administer 30 million doses of vaccine in one month. Nothing to do with the current chaos… ”, remembers Gulnar Azevedo e Silva, president of the Brazilian Association of Collective Health (Abrasco). For her, the responsibility for the situation is clear: “Of course there is the global shortage. But the essential cause is to be found on the side of the action of the government of Jair Bolsonaro. ”

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