MANAGUA, Nicaragua -- Nicaragua has begun slowly vaccinating people over 60, using an AstraZeneca vaccine made in India.
Many arrived at the Bertha Calderón hospital in the capital with canes, wheelchairs or the assistance of relatives. Those better able to walk waited under a tarp to ward off the fierce spring sun.
“I have been waiting all year for this day. I’m happy," López said after getting her shot. A nurse overseeing the effort said workers were administering 600 to 700 shots in a 10-hour work day. Everyone in line had to sign a form releasing the government of any responsibility for any side effects.
The Sandinista government of President Daniel Ortega has issued oddly low counts of deaths and infections, and has urged Nicaraguans to attend food, sports and cultural festivals and go on vacations.
The government acknowledges only 179 deaths and 6,747 infections in Nicaragua since the pandemic began, but the independent civic group Citizen Observatory says there have been 3,014 deaths and at least 13,312 suspected cases.
The country's health minister has spoken of the need to maintain the economy, badly damaged by two years of antigovernment protest and harsh crackdowns on dissent. Some analysts say Ortega and his circle may also see anti-virus measures as weakening their hold on power.
At the Bertha Calderón hospital where the vaccines were being administered, a Sandinista party flag flew, as it does at most public buildings in Nicaragua.
Ortega, 76, is seeking to be re-elected yet again in November; he has been in power since 2007.