‘Werewolves’ and fear of vaccines: myths about the coronavirus in Bolivia

‘Werewolves’ and fear of vaccines: myths about the coronavirus in Bolivia

‘Werewolves’ and fear of vaccines: myths about the coronavirus in Bolivia

Bolivia has one of the worst health indicators in Latin America. Its healthcare system is fragile. Since before the pandemic, the infrastructure, supplies and health personnel were insufficient. And the problems were exacerbated by the coronavirus.

The country of 11 million inhabitants has been fighting for more than a year and a half against Covid-19 and so far, has accumulated almost half a million infected and almost 20,000 deaths, and is ranked number 50 of the countries with the highest absolute number of infected in the world, according to a report by Doctors Without Borders.

The country’s health system has already faced three waves of Covid-19, but the third was the worst. Indeed, experts and official data show that the last wave was shorter but more aggressive.

“And the health system, already fragile, could not hold out. We are talking about collapsed hospitals, saturated intensive therapies and despair due to the lack of oxygen, ”explains Jacobo Zuluaga, medical reference for the Covid-19 Project, from MSF, in Bolivia.

“Our goal is to support the health system in the fight against the pandemic,” adds Zuluaga. “Now we work in the Cochabamba region, where there is a high incidence of cases and a health system on the verge of collapse, in addition to a minimal contribution in mental health services,” he remarks.

‘Werewolves’ and fear of vaccines: myths about the coronavirus in Bolivia

Doctors Without Borders specialists give information about Covid-19 in a hospital in Cochabamba, Bolivia. Photo: courtesy MSF

“Infodemia”: how to combat misinformation

“The fragility of the health system in the fight against the coronavirus is a problem,” explains Karen Zambrana, MSF in charge of health promotion activities in Bolivia.

“But another factor that influences the situation and position of the population in the face of the virus is the misinformation and general confusion about Covid-19. The people we meet within our activities have a lot of desire to live, but they are lost among myths, fears and doubts about Covid-19 “, adds the specialist.

“In the first wave of Covid-19, the entire community was terrified,” says Lidia, a resident of Cochabamba.

“Nobody wanted to say they were sick because they didn’t want to go to the hospital to be admitted, isolated and left to die. My family and I got sick and cured ourselves at home, out of fear, ”he explains.

After getting sick, Lidia started looking for information about the coronavirus. MSF’s health promotion talks convinced her of the importance of these activities and for a year she became a Community Health Leader. “Information can heal us and it can save our lives,” he says now.

‘Werewolves’ and fear of vaccines: myths about the coronavirus in Bolivia

An expert from Doctors Without Borders and nurses in a hospital in Cochabamba, Bolivia. Photo: MSF

False rumors about the vaccine

Mass vaccination against Covid-19 in Bolivia began in January of this year.

Bolivia set itself the goal of vaccinating 7.4 million people over 18 years of age by October 2021, and thereby achieving the so-called herd immunity, but so far only 32% of the Bolivian population received both doses immunization.

The vaccine was also accompanied by a lot of misinformation: on the one hand, the population that has doubts about the effectiveness of some vaccines, fear of what may happen after the injection is applied, and invented myths among the population about transformations of people into werewolves or human magnets, among others.

“The truth is that social networks and rumors have filled the Bolivian population with misinformation, fear and rejection of the Covid-19 vaccine and health personnel have not escaped this situation,” explains Karen Zambrana.

Luckily, she points out, many people no longer believe in these myths and are willing to get vaccinated.

Source: Doctors Without Borders

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