The Brazilian provincial town of Serrana, in the state of São Paulo, is world news in one fell swoop. All adult residents who want to do so will be vaccinated as of today. They will receive two doses of the CoronaVac virus, the vaccine from the Chinese company Sinovac.
The mass vaccination is a unique scientific study called Project S, with the S of Serrana.
“ Until now, there have been only test phases of vaccines, looking at whether they are effective at an individual level. Now were going to see what happens when you vaccinate the entire population,” says Natasha Nicos Ferreira, one of the coordinators of Project S. The infectiologist is attached to the local hospital and radiates with pride. “As far as we know, this has never happened before,” she says.
Check out the report Marc Bessems made about Project S here:
Among other things, the scientists want to investigate whether group immunity is achieved, and how quickly this is achieved. “You can of course look at a place where many people have already been vaccinated,” says Nicos. “Israel, for example, is already very far. But millions of people have been vaccinated there, and its hard to keep an eye on such a large group.”
Also, especially many older people in Israel have already had the vaccine, she says. “We vaccinate everyone, regardless of age, in a short time, and we keep a close eye on all those thousands of people. Because everyone lives in one place, we think we can learn a lot about the effect of vaccination on the spread of the virus.”
Most of the inhabitants of Serrana respond enthusiastically. The town was hit hard by coronavirus compared to similar areas in the region. “Im really relieved that we dont have to wait so long until we get vaccinated,” says a mother with her child on her arm. In the rest of Brazil, thirties like them are far from the turn for vaccination.
When the news about Project S came out, the phone at realtor Isabella Almeida Meghelli was red-hot. “We got four times as many calls as usual,” she says. People from other municipalities and states were looking for housing in Serrana, hoping to participate in the mass vaccination as a resident of the town. “Those people didnt want a home, they wanted a vaccine,” she says. When it became clear that a temporary lease did not give rise to the right to a puncture, most potential customers did not hear from them anymore. “It took a lot of extra work, and we didnt deserve anything from it,” she sighs.
In the centre of Serrana, most shops are closed due to the pandemic and carnival holidays. At the Skoda restaurant, people are waiting in line for takeaway. “I am a great supporter of mass vaccination,” says Ricardo, one of the owners of the food establishment. The banquet hall behind the pick-up desk is deserted. “Our hope is that thanks to Project S we can quickly open up our business,” he says.
Serious side effects, according to Bolsonaro
The enthusiasm for the mass vaccination in Serrana is also an important measure of the confidence that the Brazilians have in the vaccines. President Bolsonaro has been criticizing the CoronaVac vaccine, brought to Brazil by his major political rival. He indicated not to be vaccinated and suggested that vaccines could cause serious side effects.
In the kitchen of restaurant Skoda, Ricardos partner, Rafael de Jesus Romancini, is stirring in a large pan of beans. He, too, has no intention of getting vaccinated. “Im afraid were just an experiment, guinea pigs.” Rafael prefers to wait, but his wife winks and says she has given him up for vaccination.
Thats what more people did. It seems that almost all of Serranas 30,000 adults are participating in Project S. The last shot will be made on March 10, and the results may be expected as early as May.