(CNN) – It was supposed to be a bright spot for Latin America in its fight against COVID-19. Chile, a country of 19 million people, was ahead of vaccines with its achievement Agreements with pharmaceutical companies A few months after the epidemic broke out. Earlier this year, I reached the country One of the highest vaccination rates in the worldWhile other countries in the region have yet to receive any vaccines.
As of Wednesday, the vaccination rate in Chile is 38.94 per 100 people, behind Israel (61.58) and the United Kingdom (47.51). In terms of vaccination, it is ahead of the United States (36,13), according to data published by the Oxford University’s “Our World in Data” database.
However, the epidemic has hardly abated. Last week, Chile broke records for the number of its daily cases since the start of the epidemic in two consecutive days: 8,195 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday and 9,171 cases on Friday. Although the number of new cases diagnosed daily has decreased this week, the truth is that the recovery that began in December has continued steadily in Chile.
As of Wednesday, Chile had close to 1.1 million cases of COVID-19. Nearly 25,000 people have died from the disease, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. what happened?
Health authorities, experts and journalists consulted by CNN say the world can learn a lot from the multi-factor “perfect storm” that struck Chile from the Christmas rallies and New Year holidays, a constant push to reopen all schools and malls, the expected sense of safety given the rapid pace of vaccines and levels of The effectiveness of the Sinovac vaccine is less than required, which has been widely used in the country.
Francisco Alvarez, a public health expert and, until recently, the director of the health department in Valparaiso County, the second most populous Chilean, says it all started with the easing of restrictions due to COVID-19 near the end of the holidays.
“Just before Christmas, we saw whole families going to buy gifts, and crowds in malls. Starting in January, people were allowed to travel between provinces to go on vacation and the virus traveled with them.” January is summer in the Southern Hemisphere, and in Chile, it is usually the peak season for national and international travel.
Alvarez, who fought his own battle with Covid-19 last summer and spent weeks in hospital, said there would be crowds on the beaches of Valparaiso, a major tourist destination, and although his office had organized sites for mobile tests, people refused to take the test because they were They don’t want to be disturbed during the holidays. “
“People got two misleading messages: You can go on vacation anywhere in the country or abroad and we are one of the main countries in Latin America in terms of vaccination. People have realized that the risk of contracting the virus may have ended and have eased the measures. That created the perfect storm,” Alvarez said. He added that there are also many Chileans who have traveled to Europe and other countries with the high infection rate, which has contributed to the recovery.
In his previous position at the Health Ministry in Valparaiso, Alvarez’s office documented 60 injuries, most of them young men who attended the same secret New Year’s Eve party, when those meetings were still banned.
The institution where the party was held was fined approximately $ 71,000 USD. A young man who was not quarantined after testing positive for COVID-19 was fined the equivalent of about $ 35,000.
There were at least six secret parties attended mainly by young visitors from Santiago, the capital. This led to spikes in the spread of the Coronavirus in an area that had until then had relatively few cases. Infection among the local population also began to increase.
And the authorities were forced again to do so Take drastic measures To fight the epidemic. Schools that have reopened for face-to-face lessons are closed again. Only essential companies, such as supermarkets, were allowed to remain open. Thirteen million Chileans They were booked again across the country at the end of March, although the app was lenient, and CNN was still able to see many people on the streets of the capital.
On Tuesday, Health Minister Enrique Paris said that while it is true that some measures were relaxed in December, he did not ask people to stop following precautionary measures. “We have been in quarantine in the Capital Region for 14 days and are seeing good results along with our vaccination efforts.”
We never said vaccination would be the only solution. Paris said: “We must receive the vaccination, but we also have to be alert to other things such as poor movement, use of masks, washing our hands, and social distancing so that the virus does not spread.”
Then there is the topic of the vaccine itself. Chile has made the vaccine widely known in part because its government pursued whatever vaccine it could get. But the widely used CoronaVac vaccine, developed by the private company Sinovac, has only been found to have an efficacy of 50.4% in clinical trials in Brazil. Another trial in Turkey showed it to be 83.5% effective. The state-owned Sinopharm said its vaccines have efficacy rates of 79.4% and 72.5%.
Although it is too early to say whether this has contributed significantly to the increase in cases, the high profile cases in Chile of people who have been vaccinated and remain in hospital with the disease have caused concern in the country.
Celestino Os, Archbishop of Santiago, was hospitalized on Saturday after testing positive for the Coronavirus, according to Father Andres Morrow, a spokesman for the diocese of Santiago. Aos was released from hospital on Tuesday. Morrow said that Monsignor Alberto Lorenzelli, auxiliary bishop of Santiago who lives with the archbishop, has also contracted the virus. They both received the Corona vaccine.
Zhao Fu, director of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, admitted that the effectiveness rate is less than ideal for Chinese Covid-19 vaccines, and told a conference in Chengdu on Saturday that “the rates of protection from The existing vaccines are not that high«.
However, the Coronavac vaccine is thought to be more effective in severe cases. Researchers from the Brazilian Botantan Institute confirmed, earlier this year, an overall low efficacy of Coronavac, but they found the vaccine was 78% effective for mild cases and 100% effective for moderate to severe cases.
Izkia Siches, president of the “Faculty of Medicine”, Chile’s largest medical association, has criticized the government’s response to the pandemic, saying that allowing people to travel while on vacation, conflicting messages from top management, and a lack of resources at local clinics have exacerbated the problem. .
After an enthusiastic assessment by Minister Paris during his appearance in the Chilean Congress of the vaccination campaign in Chile, Sechs responded by saying, “We should not be immersed in ourselves. Our country is going through a fragile period at the moment,” reported CNN Chile, an affiliate of the network. CNN.
Paris, in office since June, later admitted that Chile “made mistakes that may have caused pain to so many families. Excuse me, excuse me. We’ve done everything in our power to do things in the best way possible.”
Christopher Olua from Santiago contributed to this report.