Brazilian city of Manaus suspends vaccination drive for 24 hours

The halt came as the capital of the Amazonas state received shots just to cover 34 percent of 56,000 health workers.

Relatives of patients hospitalised or receiving healthcare at home, who are mostly suffering from COVID-19, gather to buy oxygen and fill cylinders at a private company in Manaus [Bruno Kelly/Reuters]

The Brazilian city of Manaus has suspended for 24 hours its vaccination campaign in order for the state of the Amazonas to review its distribution plan.

The suspension “which meets the recommendation of local control bodies, was taken so that the State government presents a reorganised plan for the distribution of doses”, read a statement from the city’s administration published on Thursday.

In the first two days of the vaccination drive which kicked off on Tuesday, 1,140 health professionals received the first dose of CoronaVac in Manaus. On the same day, more Brazilian states administered their first doses of the vaccine from China’s Sinovac after its approval on Sunday for emergency use. The country also approved Britain’s AstraZeneca vaccine.

However, the capital and largest city of the Amazonas state received enough shots to cover just 34 percent of 56,000 health professionals.

“With the low volume of doses of vaccines against Covid-19 passed by the State government to the Manaus City Hall – only 40,072 of the 282,000 received from the Ministry of Health,” the municipality needed to review its inoculation plan, according to another statement from the city’s administration.

Meanwhile, a case of two sisters who were accused of having been vaccinated solely on the basis of family connections caused a stir in Manaus. They are the daughters of a well-known university director.

Health worker Vanda Ortega, from the Witoto Indigenous group, celebrates after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine during the start of the vaccination programme in Manaus [Edmar Barros/AP Photo]

Politicians, entrepreneurs and civil servants were vaccinated in at least 11 Brazilian states and the capital district of Brasilia despite not belonging to the designated priority groups, the news site G1 reported.

The suspension of inoculation in Manaus comes as Brazil is struggling to contain the pandemic with supplies of oxygen running out in clinics due to the amount of COVID-19 patients.

The country reported more than 214,000 deaths due to the COVID-19 pandemic, second only to the United States, while almost 8.7 million people have been infected so far, according to the Johns Hopkins University.

Amazonas state has been particularly hit hard among Brazil’s 27 states, with a death rate of 159 per 100,000 inhabitants in an area where rivers and forest terrain make the logistical challenges of confronting a health crisis even more difficult.

The county’s Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello said last week that the hospital system in Manaus was collapsing, as health facilities were short-staffed and quickly running out of oxygen.

Amazonas has recorded at least 232,000 cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, according to official figures.

Hospitals in Manaus have admitted a few new COVID-19 patients, causing many to suffer from the disease at home and some to die.

Many doctors have had to choose which COVID-19 patients will get oxygen, while desperate family members searched for oxygen tanks for their loved ones.

The city is receiving an average of four Brazilian air force flights per day to bolster oxygen stocks, along with one shipment per day from the city of Belem near the mouth of the Amazon River, according to officials.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies