Coronavirus in Chile NATIONAL

Why are coronavirus cases rising despite Chile’s high vaccination rate?

SANTIAGO – Coronavirus infections in Chile have risen despite a largely successful vaccination program. Epidemiologist Catterina Ferreccio talked to Chile Today about the reasons and suggested measures to prevent further rises. The Health Ministry’s latest report underlines the seriousness of the statistics.

Chile is among the countries with the highest Covid-19 vaccination rate. Over 87% of the population has received at least one dose, according to Our World in Data, while Health Ministry data puts the figure at 92%. Over 13 million inhabitants had been completely vaccinated by Nov. 10, the Health Ministry said. Chile’s rate compares to 67% in the US or 58% in Mexico. Yet, Chile’s cases have risen to over 2,000 per day consistently.

Catterina Ferreccio, an epidemiologist at Universidad Católica, told Chile Today that cases may rise since vaccines do not provide complete protection, while effectiveness is also weakened by vaccination gaps. “We are not 100% protected as we are not 100% vaccinated. The vaccines however do protect against severe symptoms and hospitalizations. Also, the third dose is very necessary as we know that the efficacy of vaccines decreases overtime. Chile is one of the first countries in the world that started with this third, booster shot.”

According to Our World in Data, Chile follows Singapore, Cuba, Portugal and the United Arab Emirates, which has 98% of its population inoculated with at least one dose. Over seven million Chileans already received a third vaccine shot.

Read more:

Chilean capital back to Phase 3 amid new rise in cases

“We have let our guard down”

Social distancing, washing hands, and limiting social interaction remain useful measures to limit the spread of the virus. Ferreccio says. “In order to not harm ourselves we need to reduce the number of people that we visit and meet outside of what safety regulations permit. At the same time concerning the environment of meeting, [we should] have the majority of those interactions in outside spaces rather than enclosed ones, maintain social distancing.”

The Health Ministry’s (Minsal) latest report shows that cases have risen by 21% and 35% in comparison to the last 7 and 14 days, respectively. The ministry registered over 2,800 new cases in the 24 hours to Nov. 11, with a positivity rate of 3.26%.

Overall, there is one main reason cases are rising in Chile. “We have all let our guards down,” Ferreccio says. “And nearly all current new cases in Chile come from the Delta variant, which is much more contagious. To avoid stricter restrictions, we must take care of ourselves a lot better. Take a step back, only meet outside, in small groups, without hugs and with face masks.” 

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