After enduring violent winds and splashes of icy seawater, health workers arrived wet and cold on two islands in the US state of Maine, located in the North Atlantic late last month. The objective: vaccinate against coronavirus.
When they reached Little Cranberry Island of 65, residents danced with excitement.
“It’s a historic day for the island,” said Kaitlyn Miller, who with a friend began to sing “I’m not giving away my vaccine!” From the Broadway play “Hamilton” when the team arrived.
Worldwide, additional effort is required and ingenuity to ensure that the vaccine reaches remote places.
That means sending it by boat to the islands, by snowmobile to towns in Alaska, and through complex waterways down the Amazon in Brazil. Before the operation is complete, they will have used drones, motorcycles, elephants, horses and camels to take you to the most distant corners of the worldsaid Robin Nandy, UNICEF chief of immunization.
“This is an unprecedented event, as we are trying to distribute a new vaccine in all countries of the world in the same calendar year,” he said.
Health workers travel by boat to arrive with the covid vaccine in the community of Santa Rosa, in the state of Amazonas, in Brazil. Photo: AP
Although the deployment of the vaccine has been bumpy in much of the world and some places are still waiting for the first doses, There is an urgency to inoculate people in hard-to-reach places who may not have had Covid-19 outbreaks, but may not be well equipped to deal with them if they arrive.
“It’s a race against time,” says Sharon Daley, medical director for the Maine Seacoast Mission, which is vaccinating seven islands off the coast of Maine.
And while coronavirus vaccines can present unique challenges, such as the need for adequate refrigeration, healthcare providers are fortunate to have an infrastructure in place using the systems they use to implement childhood measles vaccination and other illnesses, Nandy said.
Snowmobiling in Alaska
In the rugged, roadless terrain of southwest Alaska, the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corp. this winter chartered planes and used snowmobiles to distribute the vaccine to nearly four dozen towns scattered across an area the size of the state of Oregon.
The vaccination campaign began in December, when temperatures were still around 20 to 34 degrees below zero and workers had to take care that the vaccine does not freeze in the syringe needle.
Despite the difficulties, the health corporation distributed thousands of doses in 47 towns in a month. In one of them, residents were distraught after Covid-19 killed one person and sickened two others, including the local health worker.
“People were really desperate to get vaccinated and it was very emotional to be able to bring them something to protect them,” said Dr. Ellen Hodges, chief of staff for the health corporation.
Boats and motorboats in India and the Amazon
In India, a group of workers recently traveled to the tiny village of Bahakajari, a town along the mighty Brahmaputra River in the far northeastern state of Assam, to begin vaccinating its nearly 9,000 residents.
The vaccines were first shipped to the nearest town, Morigaon, before driving the last leg. The inhabitants of a nearby island fThey were taken to the health center by boat.
Women in shiny saris and men lined up to get vaccinated. By the end of the day, 67 had received the vaccine, and officials plan to vaccinate 800 more in the next three days.
Health workers boating on the Brahmaputra River in the state of Assam, India. Photo: AP
In Brazil, the remote Amazon communities they posed a challenge that involved traveling for hours in small planes and boats.
As in many distant places, it was important to bring the vaccine to the villages because most jungle communities only have basic medical facilities that are not equipped to treat severe cases of Covid-19.
As in other parts of the world, including the United States, health workers had to overcome the challenge of convincing some villagers that it was safe and important to get vaccinated.
“The indecision before vaccines it is a complex issue and it is extremely important that high-quality information is provided to all groups in society, “said a spokesperson for the public-private partnership GAVI, the former Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, which works to improve vaccination in poor countries.
To get the vaccines to the town of Santa Genoveva de Docordo, in the department of Choco, in Colombia, it was also necessary to use boats. Photo: AFP
Relief on a small North Atlantic island
In Maine, there was relief when the century-old Seacoast Mission took on the task of getting the vaccine to the islands.
For the islanders, arriving on the mainland in the best of circumstances would have meant a day trip to receive the vaccine. Bad weather can delay ferries and mail boats, leaving residents trapped for days. And some are too sick to travel.
“Life on the islands is distant. And isolated. And I think that isolation is both the attraction and the core of the challenge,” says John Zavodny, president of the Seacoast Mission.
A few days ago, it was too windy to carry the mission ship with medical equipment, so a smaller one was used. The team also used a lobster ship for the short trip to the Little and Great Cranberry Islands.
The islanders are used to a degree of isolation, but this winter was especially harsh on Little Cranberry Island because the community could not even host dinner parties where everyone brings a plate or other regular gatherings due to restrictions imposed by the coronavirus. said Lindsay Eysnogle, who teaches five island children from preschool through second grade.
The vaccine offers hope that the islanders can return to something close to normalcy.
“We are delighted,” he said. “This will alleviate a level of isolation that we are not used to here. It is a relief.”
Fuente: The Associated Press
Translation: Elisa Carnelli