Doña Isabel López leaves the hospital room behind, greets her children who are waiting for her outside and crosses herself looking up at the sky. “I waited a whole year for this day, I am happy,” she says excitedly after receiving the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Nicaragua.
The woman, a 65-year-old former accountant and owner of a gym in the southern part of Managua, got vaccinated on Thursday as part of the immunization campaign that the Nicaraguan government began on March 2 and extended this week to older adults. .
The Bertha Calderón Hospital, specialized in caring for women, is one of the capital’s public health centers for this stage of vaccination. Doña Isabel and her husband, also retired, went to the place where more than 100 people were waiting in the morning.
Many arrive in wheelchairs, with lifts or assisted by relatives. A team of nurses give them priority among the waiting group. The others must wait under large canvas awnings, protected from the merciless Nicaraguan sun.
The vaccination is carried out in the central auditorium of this hospital, where, as in all public buildings, flags of the ruling Sandinista Front wave, the party that brought ex-commander Daniel Ortega to power in 2007, who would seek his third re-election next November, about to turning 76 years old.
“We have had a good response. Last Monday we started with the elderly and we are vaccinating between 600 and 700 people per day, in shifts of up to 10 continuous hours, ”a nurse who acts as the head of the health team told the AP.
Those who get vaccinated present their identity card and must sign a document that says: “I voluntarily accept” the application of the vaccine and “I exempt the Nicaraguan government and the Ministry of Health from all responsibility for events related to it.” .
The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) recently discouraged the signing of such “consents” and clarified that their use “is not part of the recommendations” of the health agency.
The people to be vaccinated enter the auditorium in an orderly manner, five by five, where they are received by nurse patients who “present” the vaccine to them, fresh out of Styrofoam coolers marked with the label “Covishield”, the AstraZeneca vial manufactured in India.
After the puncture, the vaccinated people remain seated for half an hour and “under medical observation” in the event of any reactions. They are advised to drink plenty of water and it is explained that in eight weeks they should return for the second dose.
Nicaragua received between 5,000 and 7,000 Russian Sputnik V vaccines in February – there is no exact official data on the quantity – and almost half a million Covishield vaccines manufactured in India, of which 135,000 came through the World Health Organization’s Covax mechanism (WHO).
The Covishield vaccine is the one currently being applied and, according to the government, Nicaragua will receive a total of two million doses via Covax, which will serve to immunize one million people (20% of the population).
“We are beginning this strong stage, in which we are going to apply 167,500 first doses of the Covishield vaccine,” Health Minister Martha Reyes told state television on Thursday.
The Nicaraguan government has been criticized by the WHO for not applying quarantines or suspending classes in the face of the pandemic. On the contrary, the Sandinista regime has promoted since 2020 the gathering of people in sporting, religious and political events.
This week, the government raised the number of deaths from COVID-19 to 179 and to 6,747 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the country since the pandemic appeared in March 2020. However, these data are much lower than those presented by the group Citizen Observatory, a network of activists and independent doctors, which registers an accumulated of 3,014 deaths and 13,312 suspected cases of the disease.