Brazil starts booster shots while many still await second dose

Sao Paulo, Sep 04 (AP):
Some cities in Brazil are providing booster shots of the COVID-19 vaccine, even though most people have yet to receive their second jabs, in a sign of the concern in the country over the highly contagious delta variant.
Rio de Janeiro, currently Brazil’s epicenter for the variant and home to one of its largest elderly populations, began administering the boosters Wednesday. Northeastern cities Salvador and Sao Luis started on Monday, and the most populous city of Sao Paulo will begin Sept 6. The rest of the nation will follow the next week. France, Israel, China and Chile are among those countries giving boosters to some of their older citizens, but more people in those countries are fully vaccinated than the 30% who have gotten two shots in Brazil. A US plan to start delivery of booster shots by Sept. 20 for most Americans is facing complications that could delay third doses for those who received the Moderna vaccine, administration officials said.
About nine out of 10 Brazilians have been vaccinated already or plan to be, according to pollster Datafolha. Most have gotten their first shot but not their second. Brazil’s cases and deaths have been falling for two months, with 621 deaths reported in the seven days through Sept. 2 – far below April’s peak of more than 3,000 reported deaths over a seven-day period. Older Brazilians have expressed concern about the efficacy of the Chinese Sinovac vaccine against the delta variant, prompting authorities to offer the booster shots.
Diana dos Santos, 71, received two shots of the Sinovac vaccine even after President Jair Bolsonaro spent months publicly criticizing it. Dos Santos, who lives Rio’s low-income Mar neighborhood, is diabetic and was hospitalized for a heart condition. She refuses to leave home until she gets her booster. I can’t go out like before and I’m still afraid of all of this, dos Santos said. I will feel safer (with a booster).
Because of the variant, some experts say the government should slow the rollout of boosters and focus on distributing second doses. Delta is the most contagious variant identified, and many studies have suggested that one dose doesn’t protect against it. Two shots provide strong protection, with nearly all hospitalizations and deaths among the unvaccinated.
Ethel Maciel, an epidemiologist and professor at the Federal University of Espirito Santo, said pushing boosters at this early stage recalls the lack of concern given the gamma variant that overwhelmed Amazonian city Manaus earlier this year, only to feed a new wave nationwide. Brazil has seen more than 580,000 deaths from COVID-19, making it home to world’s eighth-highest toll on a per-capita basis.

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