Things That Matter

As The U.S. Rolls Out The COVID-19 Vaccine, What’s The Future Of Vaccine Access In Latin America?

It’s official: the first shots are going into people’s arms at hospitals and nursing homes across the United States. In what is a record-shattering timeline, we already have several options for a vaccine to fight COVID-19 and hopefully allows us resume some sort of normalcy in our lives.

The U.S. wasn’t the first country to start administering the COVID-19 vaccine but it is one the largest to do so. And even as the U.S. struggles to implement a plan on how to roll out the program to growing numbers of people, there is growing discussion on when the vaccine will become available to countries across Latin America and if local governments will be able to successfully administer them.

Vaccines have started going into people’s arms across the United States.

Just a day after vaccines started rolling out from giant storage facilities, they’re already going into the arms of thousands of people across the country. Packed in dry ice, shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine began arriving Tuesday at more than 400 hospitals and other distribution sites.

The first 3 million shots are being strictly rationed to front-line health workers and nursing home patients, with hundreds of millions more shots needed over the coming months to protect most Americans.

The rollout provided a measure of encouragement to exhausted doctors, nurses and other hospital staffers around the country.

Despite the vaccine getting approval, many governments aren’t prepared or able to start injecting people.

Credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Few regions in the world have been hit as hard by the pandemic as Latin America. And long before Coronavirus arrived, the region’s healthcare systems were already under immense strain.

Now, as Brazil registers the world’s second-highest Covid death toll and Mexico the highest case-fatality ratio, they’re unraveling, aggravating rising inequality, crime, economic decline and public mistrust. With 8% of the globe’s population and 30% of its Covid deaths, Latin America is facing the pandemic’s next phase – vaccines – with little in the way of confidence.

Meanwhile, there’s real fear that organized criminals could steal vaccines. In fact, just last month, hijackers commandeered a truck just east of Mexico City and hauled off its cargo. It wasn’t cash or jewelry but doses of ordinary flu vaccine so scarce in Mexico this year that there’s a black market for it. That wasn’t a good sign for the upcoming roll out of an even more scarce COVID vaccine.

Mexico may be the best equipped but there’s serious doubts and mistrust from residents.

Mexico approved the use of the Pfizer vaccine just days after the U.S. did. The government also ordered more than 34 million doses of the vaccine, the first 250,000 of which are expected to arrive in Mexico this month.

Mexican officials have placed responsibility for transporting the vaccine –which must be kept at -100 F – to the point at which they will be administered while the Health Ministry will be responsible for inoculation, with help from the Mexican military.

The vaccines ordered will be enough to inoculate 17.2 million people as each person must be given two shots 21 days apart. With only 250,000 doses expected to arrive this month, just 125,000 Mexicans – about 0.1% of the population – will be able to be vaccinated by the end of the year.

Health officials are very worried about the rollout in places like Brazil and Bolivia.

From Brazil to Bolivia, some leaders aren’t lending confidence to the entire system. In fact, Brazil’s Jaír Bolsonaro has moved on from demonizing masks to now saying he won’t get a COVID vaccine. Obviously, health officials are worried the toll this could have on his loyal supporters.

Meanwhile, in Bolivia, officials there approved ingesting bleach against the virus, which is widely considered useless and dangerous.

Although health officials insist they’re stocking up on equipment and mobilizing the military to help with distribution, many are still worried about what their vaccine programs will look like.

Brazil has long had a strong track record in vaccinating its 210 million people. According to a health experts, its five-decade-old immunization program, which operates 35,000 outposts, is in sturdy shape. Even in this difficult year, the government reached 90% of the people it intended to with the annual flu shot.

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This Latina Is Making COVID Piñatas So People Can Take Their Pandemic Anger Out In a Fun Way

Fierce

This Latina Is Making COVID Piñatas So People Can Take Their Pandemic Anger Out In a Fun Way

Photo via the_pinata_shop/Instagram

Like many people, Carolina Tolladay Vidal’s COVID-19 hit her business hard. Tolladay Vidal runs a piñata business in Anchorage, Alaska, and with so many fiestas being canceled, her piñata sales were plummeting.

For fun, Carolina Tolladay Vidal created some COVID-virus-shaped piñatas to post to her social media page. And suddenly, orders for the quirky piñatas began to pile up.

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A post shared by Carolina Vidal (@the_pinata_shop)

Around July 4th of last year, Tolladay Vidal posted the following: “We’ve had it with you COVID19! This mama is tired of social distancing, postponing parties, canceling trips, juggling with kids 24/7, and this whole new lifestyle (I won’t lie, love the lazy days too!! So…prepare to die!! [laughing emoji] Want a chance to win this FILLED corona virus piñata? Stay tuned for details tomorrow!”

Her followers, dying to have a chance to unleash their pandemic-related anger in a fun way, immediately connected with her new product. “You are a creative genius!” wrote one of her followers. Another wrote: “Ja jajjajaja buenísima!!! [clapping hands emojis]”.

via the_pinata_shop/Instagram

Carolina Tolladay Vidal said that her inspiration for the COVID piñatas came from her own frustration at the way COVID has negatively impacted her life. “Many of the projects I had were moved to other dates,” she told Alaska Public Media. “Many were canceled.”

Tolladay Vidal explained that hitting the COVID piñatas was both fun and cathartic. “I think you really smash them and break them and hit them with meaning because it has been tough for everybody,” she said.

She also acknowledged how smashing the COVID piñatas was “bittersweet”–the sweetness from the piñata, of course. The bitterness from, well…being in a pandemic for over a year.

Carolina Tolladay Vidal learned the craft of piñata-making from her abuela when she was growing up in Mexico.

via the_pinata_shop/Instagram

“I have a memory of my grandma setting up all the grandchildren and helping her make a couple star pinatas with the seven points,” she told Alaska Public Media.

She created her own business, The Piñata Shop, when her daughter requested a very specific piñata for her birthday that CTV couldn’t find in stores. ““I had looked in the stores in town. I looked online, and I didn’t find anything,” she said. “And I thought, ‘Well, you know, it shouldn’t be so hard to make up a piñata.’”

A true jefa, Carolina Tolladay Vidal also runs an artisanal online jewelry store designing and selling Talavera jewelry called Folksy Bonitas. Creative genius, indeed!

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As The U.S. Expands Vaccine Eligibility Here’s What You Need To Know

Things That Matter

As The U.S. Expands Vaccine Eligibility Here’s What You Need To Know

Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Starting today, everyone 16 and older can get in line for the Coronavirus vaccine. This is a huge milestone that has been months in the making after a very ambitious plan by the Biden administration.

But with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine still on pause, many have been wondering what the vaccine program will look like – especially since nearly everyone is now eligible to receive a shot in the arm.

As of Monday, anyone 16 and over is technically eligible to receive the Coronavirus vaccine.

On Monday, every state in the U.S. expanded its vaccine eligibility to include all adults over the age of 16, meeting President Biden’s deadline which he established two weeks ago.

The country is now administering 3.2 million doses a day on average, and half of all adults have now received at least one dose. Additionally, 84.3 million people have now been fully vaccinated against the disease. These are truly encouraging figures in the fight against the pandemic but a lot of uncertainty remains.

Ok but can I get a shot?

Technically, yes, anyone over the age of 16 is now eligible for the vaccine but your access to it really varies from state to state.

Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington, D.C., were the last to open up eligibility on Monday, after other states expanded access to the general public over the past month.

If the country’s present vaccination rate continues, 70% of the total U.S. population could be vaccinated by June 17 and 90% by July 25, the New York Times has projected. That timeline will likely depend on what happens with Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine, however, as distribution is now paused following reports of blood clots, despite being statistically extremely rare.

So, what’s going on with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine?

On Sunday, the nation’s top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony S. Fauci said that he believed the pause on the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine will likely be lifted on Friday. During interviews on talk shows, Fauci stated that he expected federal health officials to decide on the vaccine’s future by the end of the week and that he did not anticipate the vaccine being permanently banned.

One alternative to banning is to limit who is able to receive the one dose shot, perhaps limiting it to males over the age of 50. This is how Europe adjusted its strategy following similar blood clotting issues with the Astra Zeneca vaccine, which was created using similar methods.

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