Wed, 29 Sep 2021

SERRANA, Brazil: A bright spot has surfaced in hard hit Brazil, which is reeling from the Covid pandemic, as the city of Serrana is nearly free of Covid infections.

In an experiment, known as "Project S", Serrana's population of 46,000 tested the effectiveness of China's Sinovac's vaccination over the past four months.
In results made public on Monday, officials said it appears the pandemic can be controlled if three-quarters of the population is fully vaccinated, said Ricardo Palacios, a director at Sao Paulo state's Butantan Institute and coordinator of the study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed.

"The most important result was understanding that we can control the pandemic, even without vaccinating the entire population," Palacios said.

Officials note that the results offer great hope to Egypt, Pakistan, Indonesia, Zimbabwe and other countries that are using the Chinese vaccination, which is less expensive than the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

For the test, the city's population was split into four geographic areas, and most adults received two inoculations by the end of April.

Initial results show the pandemic being brought under control after three of the areas had been vaccinated.

Officials have said that following the vaccination campaign in Serrana, deaths fell by 95 percent, hospitalizations by 86 percent and symptomatic cases by 80 percent.

The project "shows the protection exists and that the vaccine is effective, no doubt," said Gonzalo Vecina, one of the founders of Brazil's health regulator and a medical school professor, as quoted by The Associated Press.

Likewise, Denise Garrett, vice president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute, called the results "good and very encouraging."

Meanwhile, the World Health Organization on Tuesday granted emergency use authorization to the Sinovac vaccination for people 18 years and over.

"The most important result was understanding that we can control the pandemic, even without vaccinating the entire population," Palacios said.

As the spread of Covid has nearly disappeared in Serrana, the nearby city of Ribeirao Preto, just 12 miles away, saw COVID-19 surge.

With hospitals filling in Ribeirao Preto with COVID-19 patients, the mayor imposed strict lockdown measures last week, including halting public transportation and limiting hours for the city's 700,000 residents to buy groceries.

"Then, by the end of January, we heard this project was coming to Serrana. And calmness set in, little by little," said Dr. Joo Antonio Madalosso Jr., as he pointed at empty beds in the hospital's COVID-19 ward. "Just look at this. This is much calmer than Ribeirao Preto and the entire region. The vaccine is no cure, but it is the solution to transform this into a light flu so people can carry on."

Earlier, Brazil's president, Jair Bolsonaro, cast doubt on the effectiveness of Covid vaccines. He said last year that Brazil would not purchase the Chinese vaccine and that he would not let Brazilians become "guinea pigs. However, the government now has tens of millions of doses after Brazil's health regulator approved the shot in January.

Brazil has recorded 463,000 people who have died from COVID-19, becoming the nation with the world's second-highest death toll.

Meanwhile, Serrana Mayor Leo Capitanelli noted that residents have had only mild and moderate COVID-19 cases in recent weeks. And he said Serrana plans to host a music festival for about 5,000 spectators, all of whom have been vaccinated with Sinovac's shot.

"This project brought our pride back," he said. "And it will bring hope for a fresh start next year."

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