People in the largest city in the Brazilian state of the Amazonas, which is experiencing a collapsing health system and dwindling oxygen supplies, have started receiving vaccinations against the coronavirus after the country began its nationwide immunization program on Monday.
Vanda Ortega, a 33-year-old indigenous Witoto volunteer nurse, received the first dose of CoronaVac, developed by Chinese biopharmaceutical company Sinovac, in Manaus, a city of 2.2 million.
Since the pandemic began, the Amazonas, home to much of the country’s indigenous communities, has recorded at least 232,000 cases of coronavirus, according to official figures.
With a new strain of the coronavirus and hospitals unable to admit many new COVID-19 patients, many people are forced to deal with the virus themselves at home, and for others, it has meant death. Doctors in the city have had to choose who to supply their already lacking oxygen supplies to, while others have been left to desperately search for oxygen tanks for their loved ones.
As images emerged on Friday showing people desperately searching for oxygen, thousands of people took to the streets across cities in Brazil to protest the government’s handling of the situation.
The Amazonas government airlifted 18 patients to another state for treatment on Monday and has already transferred 112 patients to the Federal District, Brasilia and other states for treatment, AP reported, citing the state figures.
Of the six million initial doses of the COVID-19 vaccine rolling out in Brazil, Amazonas received 256,000.
The Brazilian air force is sending in four flights per day into Manaus to increase oxygen supplies, and the city is also receiving an additional shipment per day from Belem, a city near the mouth of the Amazon river.
The Venezuelan government has also dispatched a caravan of trucks loaded with 107,000 cubic meters of oxygen.
The Brazilian health ministry has sent seven oxygen generating plants, which will help supply oxygen to 100 ICUs once it is installed.