In many countries, vaccination campaigns seem to be producing the expected results. The rate of infection is falling, the rate of deaths has collapsed, and compulsory mask wearing looks to become a thing of the past.
But a country that until now was considered a pioneer in vaccination is now having to sharply tighten its COVID measures again. In Chile, the numbers are rising again.
Chile's swift vaccination program
The South American country stands out from its neighbouring countries because of its ambitious vaccination strategy. Almost nine out of its nearly 20 million inhabitants are fully vaccinated.
An additional 2.5 million have received their first vaccination dose. The country's goal is to reach the 75% mark: if three quarters of a population are vaccinated, herd immunity is all but guaranteed.
This would make large outbreaks unlikely. So far, Chile has vaccinated 58% of this coveted 75%, which was expected to be reached by August.
Is the vaccine just less effective?
Israel is the only country that has fully vaccinated its population to a greater extent than Chile. Here, the seven-day incidence is slowly dropping towards zero.
But in Chile, despite these impressive vaccination statistics, the number of cases is now exploding once more. Hospitals are reaching their limits. Experts are blaming this unfortunate development on the type of vaccine used predominantly in Chile.
Israel only administers the vaccines from BioNTech/Pfizer and Moderna. In Chile, more than three quarters have received the Chinese vaccine Sinovac.
Sinovac is not an mRNA vaccine and apparently protects about 63 per cent of Chileans against symptomatic disease and severe courses, while the mRNA vaccines of Chile have a claimed efficacy of about 95 per cent.
Lockdown frustration and economic hardship
In addition to the problems with vaccination effectiveness, Chile is also struggling with severe lockdown disenchantment, which is exacerbated by economic hardship.
The past months have been marked by a back and forth lockdown provisions. People are fed up, plus the constantly shifting regulations have caused confusion.
Intensive care physician Marcela Garrido, head of epidemiology at the hospital of the Universidad de los Andes in Santiago de Chile, declared to the Chilean daily La Tercera:
People are losing respect for the measures and people are no longer staying at home - this has economic but also mental reasons.
The Chilean inhabitants do not have the same freedom as Britons when it comes to their home office. They also don't have fixed employment contracts for the most part.
Thus, economic pressure forces many to leave the house despite all instructions. Given the high vaccination rate, people in Chile also feel that they are safe enough.
To compound these issues, Chile is in the Southern hemisphere, which means that their winter season is beginning, which may also be driving up the number of new infections.