Carmela Corleto kept a strict quarantine for more than a year to avoid catching the new coronavirus, replacing the company of family and friends with books, crossword puzzles, and soap operas. Then, she had to wait several months to get vaccinated because of a shortage of shots in Argentina.
The 71-year-old finally got her first shot of the AstraZeneca vaccine on April 23 just as Argentina endures a strong new wave of the pandemic with an average of 26,000 new daily cases. The onslaught has brought the country’s health care system to near collapse, with more than 2.7 million cases and 61,100 deaths. Argentina registered a record one-day total of 557 deaths on Friday.
“I feel very, very, very, very, very happy,” Corleto said, shaking her dishevelled hair. “When they gave me the shot it made me happy; the reaction was instantaneous,” she said with her vaccination card in hand.
Under the Southern Hemisphere autumn sun, Corleto joined a group of women taking dance classes in a park, moving to the Los del Río classic “Macarena”.
Just over half of Argentine adults over 60 have been inoculated with at least one shot out of a total of 7.3 million. The country was one of the first in Latin America to start vaccinations, but due to delays in the arrival of doses, it now lags behind Chile, Brazil, and Mexico. Argentina’s government blames the delays on geopolitical issues while the opposition blames them on the inability of President Alberto Fernández’s administration to negotiate with suppliers.
Corleto’s health is fragile after several surgeries for a fibroma and other ailments. “It was clear to me that if it (coronavirus) grabbed me, I had little hope.
“For me, the vaccine is the endpoint, the light at the end of the road,” she said.
Corleto, who is divorced, spent the quarantine first imposed in March 2020 in a two-room apartment in Burzaco, a western suburb of Buenos Aires.
It was difficult for the grandmother, who was accustomed to travelling and going out with her friends and grandchildren. She turned to reading, soap operas, and virtual dance classes. She was also helped by faith. A regular at church every Sunday, she followed the masses broadcast on the public channel.
She established a code with her neighbour: “If my window was closed at 10:30 in the morning, it meant something had happened to me.”
“The only thing I didn’t lose was hope,” she said.