© Reuters. Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination campaign in Antarctica
By Dave Sherwood
SANTIAGO (Reuters) – Chile’s lightning-fast vaccination program has hit the icy shores of Antarctica, officials and researchers told Reuters on Wednesday, bringing a sense of relief to one of the most isolated and vulnerable outposts on earth.
The pandemic hit Antarctica in December, making it the last continent in the world to report an outbreak of COVID-19. Chilean health and army officials sought to evacuate workers from a remote area with limited medical facilities.
Marcela Andrade, an official at the Chilean Antarctic Institute (INACH), told Reuters by phone that Air Force personnel, followed by staff from Professor Julio Escudero’s research base, received a vaccine from China’s Sinovac Biotech Ltd. on Sunday. was vaccinated.
She said the fear of the outbreak a few months ago had been coped well, but a reminder of the importance of getting vaccinated quickly in such a remote and unforgiving place.
“It’s a relief,” said Andrade, who said workers in the isolated area are at particular risk. “We don’t have flights or ships leaving here every day. It’s complicated to transport people who are (sick) or who pose a risk to others.”
The base is on the remote King George Island, the largest of the Shetland Islands off the coast of Antarctica. Researchers count several species of seals, penguins, and fish-eating seabirds as their closest neighbors.
Chile has prevailed in its vaccination program across much of Latin America and the world, vaccinating most of its health workers, military personnel and the elderly on the front lines. But a surge in contagion across the country has nearly brought hospitals to collapse and forced new restrictions on movement. (Graphic: https://tmsnrt.rs/34pvUyi)
Andrade said Chile’s decision to vaccinate workers in Antarctica was much appreciated and timely. She said a shift of workers was scheduled on the mainland in mid-April to make breathing easier with the vaccine.
“Given the situation in the country and in the world, it is a great relief to go back to the mainland with a little protection,” she said.
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