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Published: July 20th 2021
A great person once said "Not all vaccines are created equally"...or at least I think they said that, I'm not sure, but someone probably said it sometime somewhere. As we've moved through this pandemic, it's certainly become clear that not everyone agrees with the sentiment that the best vaccine is the one that is provided to your first, despite the quotes from medical professionals. Case in point is the country in which I am currently residing...that's right, you guessed it, Chile. We've been somewhat fortunate as Chile has consistently ranked as one of the top 10 in vaccines given since they were first approved and available. Even now, I think it's probably at around 80% of eligible people with first dose, and somewhere around 60% with two based on a quick google search.
Which gets me to my original point above, interesting has been the mix of vaccines given. I think Chile took a bit of a gamble at the start, when it contracted a significant amount of its source to be Sinovac, produced in China (did ya know?). About 85-90% of vaccines given in the country have been Sinovac...the rest being a mix of Pfizer, Astra Zeneca and SInopharm.
And look, we are starting to see the fruits of this gamble, as cases finally settle here, but there has been a lot of uncertainty and the comedown in cases has been slow...so if you were offered, would you take Sinovac? Especially in the early days, and even now, there are still some questions about the effectiveness of the vaccine, and at the time vaccinations started here, it certainly was not clear how effective Sinovac was. If you look up the various studies, the results were quite different, and there was never an "official" peer review studied released by the company (effective ranged from 50-80%). Even now if you read articles, there are still a lot of questions about it (see https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-57845644).
So, I ask again what would you do? Well, for us, and for many from the gringo set, it was grind to get Pfizer. We have a Gringo's What's App group here, all expats, generally for exchanging info (for instance, hey, I need a plumber, any recommendations? oh yes, I recommend Jesus...but wait a second, wasn't Jesus a carpenter). Obviously the pandemic was top of mind, and vaccinations were top of mind and most gringos (read, Westerners
(Cad, US, Europe, Aussie)) were concerned about receiving the Sinovac shot, especially when it was not clear how it would be treated by their governments...Canada doesn't recognize it as an approved vaccine for instance...so the chat became a trove of information as to what vacunatorio was giving Pfizer. The government had set up vacunatorios all over the city, and all you had to do was show up on the day your age became eligible. But the challenge was, you never really knew which one they would have...and with 85% of the doses as Sinovac, it could be like looking for a needle in a stack of needles. So each morning the call would go out "Anyone know who's giving Pfizer" and the responses would come "Pfizer2 at Las Rosas, no Pfizer1, only Sino1" or "Spoke to the guy at Bicentenario, he said they would be arriving later today" or "Just left El Tranque, got my Pfizer shot"...and on it went. I'll admit, coming up to our day, we were STRESSING...I did not want no Sinovac. And you know, you feel kinda guilty about it right, like you are too good from something, but god dammit, I would be recognized as
unvaccinated in my home country if I traveled back there right now (if I could leave the country that is, but those restrictions should at least end soon).
So what did I do? Well, I drove around from vacunatorio to vacunatorio until I found Pfizer! I personally went to 5, and then acting like a clueless Gringo stood in the line for people supposedly getting their second Pfizer dose for about 4 hours...couldn't quite figure out what was going on, and the lady in front of me kept saying "this is only for Pfizer2" (don't worry, that's what I'm here for *smile awkwardly, eyes dart from side to side*) and one of the nurses kept coming out and saying "Oh it hasn't arrived, blah blah, I would come back tomorrow if I were you", but all I knew was that I was waiting until I found out. And after standing still for about three hours, the line began to move, and slowly I made my way to the front, my heart pounding, worried I would be denied, until finally I was in! Gave my info, they whisked me into the tent, sat in the chair, and bam, it was
done. A few days later Steph had an even more difficult time finding a place (went to 8 vacunatorios) but all's well that ends well, and she got her shot. It was a real sense of relief for us though...that was May, and my second dose was beginning of June. Since then, we have still been in and out of quarantine, although Chile has since instituted a vaccine "green pass" and now that we are two weeks past our second dose, we are free to leave the house without police permisos, and travel a bit depending on the specific restrictions of our communa. Cases are coming down in Chile as well, so we are hoping that that holds as more and more people are vaccinated.
In the meantime however, we have had a little bit of time to do some close to home traveling. We headed with friends back to the beach in Cachagua, and just spent an amazing long weekend skiing up at La Parva, one of the four ski resorts that are within an hour and a half drive of Santiago...which is further than it seems, as you should see the road to get there, you can read about that here (https://www.travelblog.org/South-America/Chile/Santiago-Region/Valle-Nevado/blog-1039125.html). With two kids that get car sick it can be no fun. But it's what we came here for...to see new things, and while the conditions weren't amazing, teaching our kids how to ski at 10,000 feet in the Andes is something unforgettable. The views from up there, and feeling like you are a world away when you can almost see your house in Santiago, it was so cool. And the kids, and us, had such a great time. We have spent so much time in our house in the last 16 or 17 months that when we came home I said to Steph, sometimes when I get back it almost seems like the trip wasn't real...like it was some fantasy I made up in my mind. It's kinda messed up right? It's not easy to move past what we've been going through.
We are hopeful though, with where Chile is at with vaccinations, that maybe a few more experiences like that will become available over the coming months. There is still have so much to see.
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