Anxious Nicaraguans Endure for their COVID Vaccinations

Huge crowds, lines and all-night waits…

Nicaraguans waiting for the doors to be opened at Managua’s Manolo Morales Hospital, so they could line up for their shots. Photo: EFE / Confidencial

Despite long lines and crowds that threaten more contagion, most reported that the attention is good. The problem has been the waits up to 14 hours to get there.

HAVANA TIMES – On Monday, September 20, at long last, COVID vaccines became available to Nicaraguans 30 and up in Managua. Beginning the day before, a desperate public swamped the four Managua hospitals where all vaccinations were centralized: Bertha Calderon, Manolo Morales and Lenin Fonseca. Those desiring a COVID shot then endured crowded lines and waits of up to 14 hours. The willingness of these citizens to remain in line at all costs was mute evidence of the virus’ unreported, deadly rampage through virtually every neighborhood in the country.

This week, similar scenes played out in Masaya, Grenada, Carazo, Rivas and other departments and municipalities where vaccination posts had also been set up, one per town.

For reasons that weren’t clear, the Health Ministry had authorized only three vaccination sites in Managua, a city of over a million. Later they added a fourth. Identity cards were strictly checked, and only those who could confirm their residency were allowed to remain in line.

Photographs of the vaccine events were graphic, showing tightly-packed crowds and enormous lines that could easily give rise to more contagion. Nonetheless, people withstood these difficult conditions, sharing a well-founded suspicion that the vaccines might run out before everyone could get one.   

Waiting for a Covid-19 vaccination.  Screenshot / Confidencial

Indeed, by Tuesday afternoon, September 21, the three Managua hospitals had closed their doors; those in line were told to wait until Wednesday. For a third consecutive night, hundreds of Managua residents spent the night outside the hospitals, in order not to risk their place in line. In at least three vaccine posts in Carazo department, according to La Prensa, doses ran out by 6 am. The population had been waiting in line since the day before. Similarly, in three vaccine posts in Grenada department, doors closed by 7 am on the first day. Those who didn’t make it were told they’d have another chance in October.

Nicaragua is currently utilizing 400,000 doses of the AstroZeneca vaccine that were donated by Spain and other countries through the Covax program. A small number of vaccines had previously been administered to the elderly and those with underlying heath conditions in July. However, at that time, the pandemic appeared to have eased in the country, and demand was low. Now, with a new wave raging, and deaths estimated at just close to 300 weekly by the independent monitoring group “Citizens’ Observatory”, a general desperation has set in the Central American country with an estimated population of 6.5 million.

Underlying the chaotic scenes are the unfortunate public health policies of the Ortega regime, which strictly controls the Ministry of Health. Since the first case of the virus was reported in Nicaragua, in March 2020, the government has not only centralized all tests and test results, but also refused to release any convincing information about the virus.

Nicaraguans waiting long hours in line for a possible Covid-19 vaccine. Photo: AFP

At the same time, up until very recently, the government continued promoting crowd events that have proven sources of contagion. The regime has pressured doctors not to write “COVID-19” as the official cause of death, leaving independent monitors to make the best estimates possible of which fatal cases of “pneumonia”, “diabetes” or “heart attacks” were really due to COVID-19. Meanwhile the Health Ministry has reported only “one COVID death” in the country for week after week.

Now, the virus is ravaging nearly every sector of the country, with priests, teachers, health workers and prominent Sandinistas among the dead. The crowds willing to wait all night for a potentially life-saving vaccine speak of a population who no longer believe the government’s words, given the information of their own eyes and ears.

Currently, the World Health Organization lists Nicaragua as having a vaccination rate of 4.3% fully vaccinated and 7.5% having received at least one dose, one of the lowest rates in the region. Daniel Ortega, who had promised to vaccinate 69% of Nicaraguans, recently downgraded the target to 2.8 million, representing 32% of the population.

The current vaccination effort has been programmed for 20 days, ending on October 9.

Read more from Nicaragua here on Havana Times.