By Osmel Ramirez Alvarez
HAVANA TIMES – In June of this year preparations were prepared in all Mayarí neighborhoods to vaccinate the entire adult population. It was mainly the family doctor’s offices the place chosen, but there were cases in which other places were the most feasible, such as a ration store or a school classroom, by then closed due to Covid-19.
In my neighborhood it was the doctor’s office. The President of the Popular Council called a meeting, accompanied by our local doctor and another doctor in charge, to orient people and ask for cooperation.
She said it was necessary to beautify the premises and make a covered area for those waiting after being vaccinated in case of possible reactions. Likewise a refrigerator was needed to store materials in optimal conditions and volunteer security guards to protect everything at night. And all this had to be assured by the local population.
The vaccination process was presented as “one of the most important battles of the Revolution,” “a revolution within the Revolution,” as “the greatest example of the greatness of Fidel’s legacy and of socialism.”
And that’s how the harangue went we had to listen to. The President of the Popular Council, also the local representative, did not improvise but repeated what was sent by superiors. She had already received it in the same terms at the municipal health department, because as the pro-government musical duo Buena Fe says, “a country’s fate is in the dose.”
A neighbor who is living with her boyfriend temporarily, loaned the refrigerator; another loaned the sheets of tin roofing; and a farmer donated the wood poles and another the nails. It was agreed to collect 10 pesos per house to pay for the guard a volunteer work day was called for the next day. Anyway, the office was “revolutionized.”
The delegate managed a truck of gravel and the entire front and yard was prepared so there wouldn’t be mud when it rained. Paint appeared and was quickly used; they looked for ornamental plants and hung flags and posters. The local seemed like something else in just three days.
I wondered how it was possible that we had been receiving primary medical care in that office for three decades without it being beautified and conditioned like that, it appears a vaccination was necessary?
How is in that in the same place children were vaccinated in the periodic campaigns carried out by the health system without renewed conditions. Suddenly so many resources not at hand were mobilized to vaccinate adults. How special or complicated could the vaccination against Covid-19 be that requires more conditions?
The only difference is that above all the vaccinations against covid are treated as a political act.
But, despite the ‘revolution’ created in this regard in all Mayari neighborhoods, Monday arrived but the vaccines didn’t. The other Monday came and the same. What did arrive was the news that Matanzas was in an uncontrollable health crisis with the virus and complaints were swarming on the networks, while the government media and the country’s leaders tried to minimize or hide that reality.
Mayarí’s vaccines were conspicuous by their absence, despite the authorities having said that they were guaranteed. Restless people hoped for the Abdala vaccines, but when the news about a plane arriving in Venezuela loaded with Cuban vaccines came out, many believed that that was the reason for the delay.
Then Julio arrived with the S.O.S. Matanzas, which later spread to almost every corner of the country. The Delta strain, more contagious and lethal, took advantage of the deteriorated health system and in the lack of medicines to alleviate the symptoms. And the wave of massive infections reached Mayarí before the vaccine.
What happened in Matanzas was more shocking in public opinion than the rest because it was the first reported. However, the nightmarish scenario was repeated in many territories; and Mayarí was undoubtedly one of the worst. There is no neighborhood that didn’t have a dozen deaths at least, between July and September.
It was when the covid calmed down at the end of September that the vaccines arrived in Mayarí. The population had already overcome it with the natural immunity acquired by the body when facing the virus. And as the number of people protected by their antibodies grows, the contagion slows down little by little by not finding paths of transmission without intermittence.
Like most of the Mayari residents who suffered the disease, my family was unable to do a PCR due to lack of tests and the collapse of the health system, so there is no evidence. They were saying that to travel by interprovincial bus the vaccination was necessary and in schools it is not mandatory, but they press with monitoring and control.
In the end, getting vaccinated in Mayarí, and certainly in most of Cuba, is considered by the authorities a political act rather than a medical one. More people recently immunized with the virus are being vaccinated than people who have not had the disease. And the few vaccinated prior to the infections, in prioritized sectors such as health, were infected with the same or worse virulence than their unvaccinated relatives.
I do not think it is honest to attribute the control of the pandemic in Mayarí or Cuba to vaccines. My perception is that it is mainly due to natural immunity, although it is not supported by lack of evidence during the pandemic peak. But in a politicized environment, scientific interpretation remains confined to the background.