SANTIAGO – Chile, already Latin America’s leader in the pace of vaccination against COVID-19, is making it even easier to get the shot with a drive-up inoculation site near the National Stadium in Santiago.
Personnel at the site, which includes a parking area to accommodate the requirement to observe people after they get the shot for possible side effects, expect to vaccinate several hundred people on Tuesday.
“It’s much more comfortable in the car because one is not so afraid of contagion,” 45-year-old essential worker Paula Escobar told EFE. “There is a lot of social distance and I feel calmer.”
Drivers spend just minutes in line at one of the 10 stations and the site has the capacity to vaccinate 500 a day, according to Andres Zarhi, mayor of the capital district of Ñuñoa.
“I hope that this delivers results. I have the hope that the situation will be good in a month and after getting vaccinated today, I believe I’m half-way there,” said Rosana Jofre, 60.
For Lidia Lillo, whose job at the site is to get information from patients before the shot is administered, the drive-up mode is “a relief” because it is safer for health workers as well.
More than 2 million of Chile’s 18 million people have received at least the first dose of the two vaccines available here, the US-made Pfizer/BioNTech medication and the drug produced by China’s Sinovac Biotech.
Chile, where mass vaccination got under way on Feb. 3, is first in Latin America and No. 5 worldwide in terms of the proportion of the population who have gotten the vaccine, with 11.2 percent, according to data compiled by Oxford University.
Brazil, second only to the United States in COVID-19 deaths, has vaccinated 2.5 percent of its people, while the global median is 1.9 percent.
Experts attribute Chile’s success to the government’s ability to secure commitments for 35 million doses of vaccine and to the Andean nation’s existing network of primary-care clinics.
The Santiago Metropolitan Region, home to more than 7 million people, has more than 120 vaccination sites, including not only hospitals but schools, sporting venues and a score of public buses.
Chilean authorities have set a goal of vaccinating the nearly 5 million people classified as at-risk by the end of the first quarter, and of inoculating 80 percent to the total population before June 1.
COVID-19 has claimed more than 20,000 lives in Chile and the number of cases has topped 780,000.