Vaccination of whole Brazilian city spares it from shortages

Full Screen
1 / 7

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

A church stands in Serrana, Sao Paulo state, Brazil, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021. Brazil's Butantan Institute has started a mass vaccination on Wednesday of the city's entire adult population, about 30,000 people, to test the virus' behavior in response to the vaccine. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)

SERRANA – As Brazil's mayors and governors start sounding the alarm over dwindling supplies of coronavirus vaccines, there are no such complaints in Serrana, a city that Sao Paulo's state government selected to test city-wide vaccination.

The city is small, but the task is sizeable: administering shots over eight weeks to the entire population aged 18 and up — 30,000 people. The study, known as Project S, entails follow-ups with each participant to shed light on the extent to which vaccination with the CoronaVac shot reduces spread of the virus.

Inês Aparecida Giolo, 61, was among among the first participants in the study, receiving her shot Wednesday morning at a school near her home.

“It’s a lot of joy, because it’s not just me, it’s for the whole city. So we are very happy,” said Giolo.

The idea of vaccinating an entire city came about last year, during the pandemic’s peak, as a means to obtain answers to countless questions in an organized manner, according to Dimas Covas, director of Sao Paulo’s Butantan Institute, which is distributing the CoronaVac vaccines and is a partner in the experiment.

“This will allow us to know in depth what is happening with vaccinated people, but also with the pandemic: the number of people affected, hospital needs," Covas said at the opening ceremony Wednesday.

Serrana — with about 45,000 inhabitants, one quarter the population of Providence, Rhode Island — was one of the worst-hit cities in Sao Paulo state, with about 5% of its population contracting the virus, said Marcos Borges, director of the State Hospital of Serrana, also part of Project S.

Borges said the town had to be prepped before the study could start, as cases needed to be monitored closely. All residents with COVID-19 symptoms for at least two days were given a quick PCR test, with results in less than 24 hours. A broad communications campaign, with support from messaging application WhatsApp, aimed to ensure high levels of participation.