Brazil struggles to ship COVID vaccine second doses

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Pregnant women with COVID-19 may more likely need intensive care and give birth early

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The shortage of COVID-19 vaccines has forced several major Brazilian cities to suspend second-dose administration, officials and media reports said Monday.

According to the news site G1, seven of the 26 Brazilian capitals have stopped booster vaccinations for the CoronaVac, which was developed in China, due to a lack of supply.

And Rio de Janeiro, Brazil's second largest city, announced on Saturday that the second dose of vaccination will be withheld for 10 days before the vaccination calendar is revised to ensure that booster vaccinations are given by age group – albeit more slowly.

The city of 6.7 million people resumed the second dose on Monday, starting with those over 70.

People under the age of 60, including health workers, may have to wait two to 12 days beyond the recommended 28-day interval between doses under the city's new vaccination schedule.

Other capitals where the second dose has been suspended are major cities such as Belo Horizonte and Porto Alegre with 2.5 million and 1.5 million inhabitants, respectively.

More than half of Brazil's state capitals currently do not have enough vaccines to ensure that anyone who receives a first dose gets the second on time, according to the Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper.

Brazil, where COVID-19 has claimed more than 400,000 lives – second only to the US – is struggling to vaccinate its 212 million people.

Two vaccines were used, both of which require two doses: CoronaVac and the Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine.

Last week it received its first million doses of the two-dose Pfizer vaccine, which it began distributing on Monday.

Far-right President Jair Bolsonaro has been criticized for downplaying the pandemic and defying advice from experts in order to contain it.

Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga said Sunday the lack of second dose was due to a logistical mistake made under his predecessor, Army General Eduardo Pazuello, who Bolsonaro dismissed in March.

Under Pazuello, the Ministry of Health decided to release reserves for second doses to be given as first doses in order to speed up the vaccination campaign in Brazil.

But the extra doses that could be relied on to replace them did not arrive in time.

About 15 percent of the Brazilian population received a first dose of vaccine, and 7.5 percent every second.

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© 2021 AFP

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