Chile is in the enviable position of having vaccinated faster than any other country in the Americas. More than a third of the country’s 18 million people have received at least one shot of either Pfizer/BioNTech or China’s Sinovac Biotech vaccine. However, cases have soared to the point of overwhelming the health system and strict lockdown measures are back in place.
The speedy vaccination programme appears to have instilled a false sense of security that led the country to ease restrictions too soon without people appreciating the ongoing risks. The country reopened its borders in November and in January introduced permits for Chileans to go on summer holiday. Without strict controls on people entering the country, and the lack of an efficient contact-tracing system, travellers may have brought infections back into the country that were not picked up.
The virus would have had more chance to spread when the schools reopened along with restaurants, shopping malls, casinos, gyms and churches. With transmission rates now so high in the country, a far greater proportion of the population will need to be vaccinated to get on top of the epidemic.