Brazil vaccinates indigenous people in Amazon rainforest

Covid-19 has killed more than 30 indigenous people and infected about 2,000 others

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Deep in the Amazon rainforest, medics offered long-awaited Covid-19 vaccinations on Tuesday to members of Brazil’s indigenous tribes.

Villagers clapped as Isabel Ticuna, 68, became the first to be immunised in Umariacu, a remote village of wooden houses on the banks of the Amazon River.

She was inoculated with the CoronaVac vaccine, developed by China’s Sinovac.

Village medic Tarcis Marques Ticuna said it was a collective sigh of relief for a community where more than three dozen residents have died of the disease, and at least 2,000 more are infected.

“I was waiting for this moment, this D-Day and it has finally arrived after so many deaths here and in the world. This is hope for us, the indigenous people.”

Brazil’s 800,000 indigenous people were particularly devastated by the pandemic, many of them live in isolated villages, days away from the closest medical post by river boat.

The country’s Indigenous Peoples Articulation, a tribal umbrella organisation, said Covid-19 had killed almost 1,000 indigenous people in Brazil, and infected more than 46,000.

Anthropologists said that the communal way of life, with families sharing dwellings, ruled out social distancing and made them particularly vulnerable to contagion.

The country's right-wing government faces criticism for its slow response to the disease, which has killed more than 210,000 Brazilians.

After weeks of setbacks, Brazil at last began its nationwide vaccination drive on Monday, using China’s Sinovac vaccine.

But shipments of the active ingredients needed for local manufacturers to fill the vaccine doses are delayed, threatening to further hamper their distribution.