RIO DE JANEIRO – Navigating complex waterways to reach remote communities in the Brazilian Amazon is just the first challenge for Waldir Bittencourt, a nurse who vaccinates indigenous peoples and river dwellers against COVID-19. did he experience something he did not expect: a fear of the vaccine

“It’s a recent phenomenon among indigenous peoples due to the polarization of the vaccine,” said 32-year-old Bittencourt, who has been involved in campaigns against tuberculosis, diphtheria and tetanus during his eight-year career

Health professionals like Bittencourt are stationed in far-flung areas in northern Brazil, often traveling for hours by small planes and boats, so most jungle communities only have basic medical facilities incapable of treating those with COVID-19, even more so Vaccination is more urgent in order to contain the rising number of cases

Brazil has almost 235000 deaths, only in second place after the US., according to a review by Johns Hopkins University in a poll by pollster Datafolha last month, 17% of respondents said they do not intend to get any of the vaccines approved in Brazil, which is higher in the North and West-Central regions, which are summarized by Datafolha, and lower in the richer regions of the south and southeast

Health care workers, experts and anthropologists say the rejection or fear of the vaccine is in part due to the doubts President Jair Bolsonaro has repeatedly expressed about its effectiveness Bolsonaro, who was infected with COVID-19 himself last year, said he has no intention of getting vaccinated and insists that others should not do it unless they want to

He initially declined to approve the purchase of the Chinese Sinovac vaccine, saying on Facebook that the Brazilians would never be anyone’s “guinea pigs.” He also opposed the Pfizer vaccine, citing a clause shielding the US Firm of Potential Liability He joked that there was no recourse when women grew beards, men’s voices rose, or people were turned into alligators

“This anti-vaccine movement doesn’t come from them. It’s brought up by certain missionaries, social media and fake news,” said anthropologist Aparecida Maria Neiva Vilaça, who works with indigenous communities in the northern state of Rondonia

These communities have had better access to technology and the Internet in recent years, but information often arrives “very skewed,” Bittencourt said over the phone from Macapa, capital of Amapa

In the Purure community in the Tumucumaque Mountains National Park, some residents of Bittencourt asked if they could be injected with the vaccine imported from India because they believed it was made by indigenous people. The word “Indian” is always used in Brazil still often used for indigenous people

In other villages, some feared they would be used as test subjects for wider vaccination campaigns among non-indigenous peoples, while others feared it would let the devil into their bodies

Although most eventually decided to take the pictures, both Bittencourt and Vilaça said they had not seen such reluctance among indigenous peoples before

Some evangelical leaders have been another source of misinformation, saying evangelicals largely supported Bolsonaro in the 2018 presidential campaign, and some pastors in remote churches helped spread his message against getting the COVID-19 vaccine

Audio messages circulating on the WhatsApp messaging app report pastors claiming they can cure the infected. In a message, a man recalls a pastor who informed him that the vaccine was available was not necessary because God could heal him

Vilaça, who teaches social anthropology at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro when she’s not in the north, said the rest of Brazilian society is no different when it comes to misinformation

“Much of the population is also only informed via WhatsApp and social media and has no access to newspaper information,” she said

Sister Luciana Dias da Costa also faced some difficulties in the Amazonian state Vaccination is especially important in the state where a flurry of infections has overwhelmed the already fragile public health system in the capital Manaus. It has forced a nationwide mobilization to help patients oxygenating those who have difficulty breathing or moving hundreds to better-equipped facilities in other states

“We all want to vaccinate, but as I said, accept some and not others,” said 46-year-old da Costa in an interview when he was taking a boat to the 25-kilometer community of Sao Joao do Tupe (miles) west of Many Manaus elders there told her they feared the effects of the vaccine they heard about on the radio

Official government data shows a death rate of 224 per 100000 in the state of Amazonas – twice the national average Some health experts believe that a variant of the coronavirus, which is more contagious and less prone to some treatments, caused the dramatic increase in hospitalizations and deaths

Dr Ethel Maciel, an epidemiologist who advised the government on its COVID-19 immunization program, said remote communities in the Amazon were a priority due to their lack of health infrastructure and the long distances people have to travel to get adequate medical care in Manaus / p>

“With an acute infectious disease like COVID-19 that worsens very quickly, the person will sometimes have died by the time these people make the trip,” she said

“We doubt which one is best? Which one will i take? Which one came to us here in the Amazon? “She asked

Eventually, however, de Albuquerque agreed to have a nurse insert a needle into her left arm. “Health comes first,” she said

COVID-19 vaccine

World News – AU – In the Brazilian Amazon, fear of the COVID-19 vaccine is challenging