Priscila Dissele Florêncio, 34, was vaccinated against covid-19 in early June, in São Paulo. For her, that moment, awaited with expectation by millions of Brazilians, did not come loaded with joy. “I would trade my vaccine for the life of my father and my older sister,” he explains. José Carlos Dissele, who died at 64, and Vanessa Dissele Palason, at 41, are part of the 500,800 deaths from the new coronavirus in Brazil, a figure that was reached this Saturday, according to data from the Ministry of Health. José Carlos, with previous cormobilities, died in December after complications caused by the disease. Vanessa, healthy, died on June 1, after the team that supplied oxygen to patients with covid-19 at the ICU where she was admitted had mechanical problems. The incident killed two other people.
“With my father, at least we were able to talk to him before he was intubated. There was no time with her, ”says Priscila, who could only see her sister to identify the body, stored in a refrigerated container next to the hospital:“ She had clear signs of lack of air, in a position of someone who had died. It shocked me, it was traumatic, ”he said. They both had a visual communication store where they worked as shop assistants. “We saw each other every day, we were very close. Now this emptiness remains ”, he says. The routine of this survivor of covid-19 (Priscila had the disease, but did not develop a serious condition) now includes psychiatric treatments and visits to psychotherapists to try to face a reality that she and thousands of other Brazilians will never be able to describe as “new normal ”. “I never went through a process of anxiety and depression as I am feeling now. I have physical symptoms, you know? ”He complains.
The sad milestone of 500,000 dead is shocking. The only country where more people lost their lives to the disease was the United States. But it ends up being a merely symbolic fact, which hides a probably worse reality. In recent months, several countries used new and more precise methodologies to update the total number of victims of Covid-19. In Peru, the process took place at the end of May, and the death toll doubled: from just under 70,000 it rose to more than 180,000. After the review, Peru went on to have the highest death rate per 100,000 inhabitants in the world. Russia, too, in December, made a similar review and tripled its death toll, to 185,000. Globally, researchers from the University of Oxford point out that the unaccounted for deaths already number at least one million.
In Brazil such a data review does not appear in the official plans. But studies carried out at the end of 2020 by the Covid Analysis Network indicate that between 30% and 50% of the total deaths from covid-19 are no longer notified in Brazil. “Surely the Brazilian number is being minimized. There is the problem of a lack of screening, a lack of evidence, and, of course, the cases that go unreported ”, says Isaac Schrarstzhaupt, a data scientist at the Network. Schrarstzhaupt also mentions the delay in accounting for deaths as a factor that makes it difficult to obtain more accurate data on the health crisis in Brazil: “We have deaths that are registered today but that occurred in 2020. It is not the majority, but that happens, because the priority of health teams is to save lives, and not necessarily that more bureaucratic part of throwing the data into the system ”. Finally, there are some deaths of people who had covid-19, recovered, but died from the aftermath, and those also remain off the balance sheet.
Despite the problems, Schrarstzhaupt says the country has a robust mortality data bank in the Unified Health System, which could be thoroughly analyzed to update national data. “I think it is possible to review the Brazilian data. But that takes time, it is a process that requires evaluating all the deaths that have occurred over the years and their causes. Draw a pattern of deaths and see what is due to the increase that exceeds that level ”, he says.
The loss of half a million lives in Brazil occurs at a time when the Government of Jair Bolsonaro is pressured by a Senate investigation into the conduct of the pandemic, which little by little begins to reveal the mistakes made by the Executive. The opposition senators already take as certain, for example, the existence of a parallel office to the Ministry of Health, made up of doctors and businessmen, which would be responsible for advising the president on the margins of science in the fight against covid- 19. In images released by the journalistic website metropolises, Dr. Nise Yamaguchi (another target of the parliamentary investigation), Congressman Osmar Terra, and virologist Paulo Zanotto discuss with Bolsonaro issues such as herd immunity and “early treatment” with chloroquine and other drugs that are proven ineffective and promoted by deniers.
The statements collected in the Senate investigation also show that due to negligence the Government stopped negotiating and purchasing vaccines in 2020, when Bolsonaro ignored dozens of emails from the pharmaceutical company Pfizer offering its product. The president asked the laboratory last Monday to anticipate the delivery of the doses, which will accelerate a vaccination campaign that so far has just over 11% of the population with the complete schedule.
To a greater or lesser degree, the pandemic affected the lives of all Brazilians. “I think that in one way or another we were all victims: either with losses in the family, or in mental health, restricted by confinement. The pandemic brings this question of death, be it of a person, of our daily life or of the freedom we had, of our physical contacts ”, says historian Alexandre Francisco Silva Teixeira.
To leave a faithful record of what this pandemic represents for millions of Brazilians, Silva created, together with his colleagues Pietra Diwan and Moisés Carlos Ferreira, the Pandemic Memorial project, which has collected interviews in one place since the beginning of the crisis , videos and photos of people who had their lives affected by the health tragedy in Brazil. A year later, the project gave rise to a book, Pandemic Memorial: The Collection of Us All (All the Muses). “How will the story of the pandemic be told in the future? How will historians understand that moment? That will depend on the memory that is saved. Sadly, we have many who will deny this moment. But there is a record, a memory, the speech of historical agents who lived this time. That voice is not erased, ”he says.
If in 1918 the outbreak of the so-called Spanish flu in Brazil left the seed of a free public health system for the future, the historian Teixeira believes that the current pandemic will have as its legacy a vaccine production process at an unprecedented rate in the world. history of mankind. “The development of these formulas occurred in less than a year after the virus was identified, at a speed never seen before,” he says. Unfortunately, for Priscila’s family and thousands of others, the vaccinations took too long.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.