Vini Jr. Alexis da Cruz felt a wave of relief when his turn began to be vaccinated with the Covid-19 vaccine.
When the virus struck Brazil, a 32-year-old child spent more than a year endangering his life and working as an Uber driver. Diabetes and high blood pressure made Mr. Cruz particularly vulnerable. However, he continued to drive passengers across São Paulo to achieve his goals.
“I was really scared to get sick,” said the father of a man who lost his job as a sports commentator before the pandemic. “But I was at risk because I had to keep working.”
Cruz received his first dose of CoronaVac in late May. But when it was time to get his second jab, he turned his back. “No one had a vaccine for me,” he said. “I went to five clinics near my house. I couldn’t find them anywhere. The same thing happened the next day and the next day.”
He washed the city for four days before getting a second shot. “Finally, I was completely vaccinated, but it really became clear how much we were deficient in the vaccine.”
Millions of people, like Mr. Cruz, are struggling to get a second shot of the Covid-19 vaccine, damaging Brazil’s already problematic vaccination campaign. Approximately 3.1 million Brazilians did not have a second jab as of July 4, according to researchers tracking vaccination.
Some people deliberately skipped the second dose, falling into a false information campaign that disseminated suspicions about the vaccine or claimed that a single shot provided adequate protection. However, the main hurdle was the dose shortage caused by the hasty deployment of the vaccine, said Dr. Lysia Bahia, a public health expert at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.
“There is this incentive to speed up vaccination with the first dose,” said Dr. Bahia, one of the researchers tracking immunization. “And the second dose ended with a back burner.”
The coronavirus kills more than 530,000 people in Brazil, the second largest victim after the United States. However, only about 40% of Brazilians have been vaccinated at least once, and only 15% are fully immunized.
Unlike some other countries, Brazil has chosen not to withhold supply for the second dose. Its vaccination campaign relies primarily on locally made CoronaVac shots using inputs from China’s Sinovac. However, shipments of Chinese materials have been delayed, just as millions are planning a second jab.
And other vaccines have been slow to penetrate Brazil after President Jair Bolsonaro deprived Pfizer of early vaccine offerings and instead chose to promote ineffective treatments such as hydroxychloroquine.
He is one of the few leaders in the world who has not yet been vaccinated. And now, his government is also investigating plans to buy millions of Kovacin shots at very high prices.
In early July, Simone Spadarida Costa Moura arrived at the clinic in São Paulo to prepare for the second jab. But like many others, she turned her back when the dose of CoronaVac was gone.
She accuses policy makers of being trapped in political tug of war that is undermining Brazil’s vaccination efforts.
“They want to show that they’re speeding things up, but they’re not thinking about a second dose,” said Moura, a former school teacher. “It’s a political war, and we’re in the middle of it. For us, we just want to get vaccinated, we don’t want to get Covid.”
Although longer dosing intervals appear to increase the effectiveness of vaccines such as Pfizer and AstraZeneca, there is still a lack of research on the effects of delaying a second dose of CoronaVac. Some experts fear that longer waits may even interfere with the effectiveness of Chinese vaccines.
It was these unknowns that she was worried about when she was told she would not take her a second dose. At high risk due to an existing illness, 32-year-old Mariano took her first dose in late May, but had a hard time finding her second CoronaVac shot.
“I spent days calling all the clinics looking for vaccines,” said Mariano, who runs an online jewelry store. “It was really painful, I was very worried. My fear was that I would miss the window to be fully immunized after taking the second dose.”
But perhaps the biggest risk is that the virus will continue to threaten Brazilians if complete vaccination is delayed, said Dr. Garson Salvador, an infectious disease specialist at the University of São Paulo Hospital.
“We need an easy way for people to get vaccinated,” said Dr. Salvador. “Without it, some inevitably give up on the second vaccination, and unless the majority of people are completely vaccinated, we remain far from pandemic control.”
This is especially worrisome. In Brazil, new strains are gaining momentum as authorities have abolished even loose hygiene measures and many unvaccinated Brazilians are anticipating basic precautions such as social distance and wearing masks. .. Some variants have proven to be more dangerous to healthy young adults and pose a threat to Brazilians who are still waiting for jabs.
After a week-long survey, a clinic near her home received a batch of new vaccines, and Moura finally received her second dose earlier this week. She says it brought her relief-and fresh hope for the future.
“You feel more protected and safer,” she said. “That’s this feeling … things are getting better.”