Bolivia’s immunisation campaign against COVID-19 is being hampered by anti-vaccine disinformation, which is fueling scepticism and making inoculation centres half bare, posing a threat for the government in the face of a surge of new infections.
Health staff and policymakers have expressed alarm over poor attendance at several vaccination centres, claiming that vaccines are being thrown away. They blame fake news campaigns, such as leaflets claiming vaccinations contain “satanic” content.
“We read some pamphlets in El Alto from anti-vaccine groups about the presence of a substance in the vaccines from Lucifer and because of that the vaccines were satanic,” said Maria Rene Castro, deputy minister of epidemiology.
“Global disinformation has come to our country and it has had an impact on people who are avoiding getting vaccinated.”
Bolivia, like most of South America, is being battered by a deadly new outbreak of coronavirus infections, with daily cases recently reaching 98% of the country’s high in February. So far, 340,000 people have been poisoned, with 14,000 deaths.
Vaccines have also been scarce in the region, though Bolivia has begun to receive more doses following agreements with Russia’s Sputnik V, China’s Sinopharm, and India’s Serum Institute for AstraZeneca shoots.
However, several vaccine distribution centres in big cities have tended to experience poor turnout, with vacant sites and long lines.
“I don’t want to get vaccinated, I don’t want to die and I don’t want to get sick,” said El Alto resident Rogelio Mayta.
Health worker Patricia Almanza said that organization around the vaccine campaign had been poor, which had not helped encourage people to come to get their shots.
“It’s criminal that during this time of the pandemic we have to discard vaccines,” she said.
“There are places where the vaccines are being discarded, or health workers are going out to look for people to vaccinate so that something so precious is not being thrown away.”
Just 7% of Bolivia’s population has received at least one vaccination, compared to 32% in the European Union and 48% in the United States.
more prosperous Latin Americans have travelled abroad, mostly to the United States, to get vaccinated, creating a stark division between rich and poor. Vaccine scepticism risks exacerbating the issue.
“The COVID-1 is ideal for me.”
9 vaccine is not credible,” said Ismael Blanco on the dusty narrow streets of the highland city. “I don’t trust the vaccine.”