The Brazilian military flew medical personnel and 1,000 doses of a Chinese vaccine deep into the Amazon rainforest on Tuesday to start inoculating far-distant indigenous people against the coronavirus.
In Umariaçu, a remote village of wooden houses on the banks of the Amazon River near the border of Peru and Colombia, Isabel Ticuna, 68, was the first to receive the vaccine.
“Vaccination is so important for all of us. It was this that we were waiting for,” she told Reuters after getting an injection of the CoronaVac shot.
Villagers clapped as she received her jab, in a collective show of relief for a community that has seen 37 residents die of Covid-19 and at least 2,000 more infected.
Tarcis Marques Ticuna, the village medic said, “I was so worried, but our D-Day has arrived finally after so many deaths here and in the world. This means hope for us.”
Brazil’s more than 800,000 indigenous people have been badly hit by the pandemic sweeping through their villages, many of them located in forests days away from the nearest medical post by river boat.
Covid-19 has killed at least 1,000 indigenous people in Brazil and infected nearly 50,000 according to the tribal umbrella organisation, the Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (Apib).
Anthropologists at Apib are warning that the communal way of life, with families sharing dwellings, rules out social distancing and makes forest-dwellers particularly vulnerable to contagion.
Brazil’s government is facing criticism for its slow response to the pandemic but appears now to be making an effort to help its indigenous tribes.