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Bolivian city uses cold chicken truck to move COVID-19 vaccines

A handout image shows a truck carrying Sputnik V vaccines in Trinidad

LA PAZ (Reuters) – A Bolivian city has resorted to using a refrigerated chicken truck to keep COVID-19 vaccines cold, a reflection of how the pandemic is straining resources in developing countries as they look to ramp up inoculations with limited infrastructure.

Vaccines doses that arrived in the central city of Trinidad were taken from the plane to a truck with a picture of a cartoon chicken on the side and normally used to delivery poultry after a health service vehicle broke down.

“Yesterday there was a damage to a vehicle that (health service) SEDES had arranged to transport the vaccines and they had to make an emergency appeal to a firm that also has trucks with cold storage,” said Jorge Richter, a government spokesman.

“When we now receive the vaccines from the COVAX plan, we will also have to take the services of many other companies because there will be around 200 boxes of vaccines.”

Bolivia has had 218,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and over 10,000 deaths. The landlocked country is now seeing a sharp rise in new infections, though has recently received a batch of Russian Sputnik V doses to start its inoculation program.

It also expects to receive its first 1 million doses of vaccine via the COVAX program jointly led by the World Health Organization later this month.

Residents in the city watched the chicken truck’s arrival with interest and put the Bolivian flag onto it when it left the airport.

“This looks like something the department authorities did not plan for,” said Edmundo Gaston, a Trinidad citizen.

“But looking at the big picture, I don’t think it creates any health problems as its just a means of transporting (the vaccines) from place to another.”

(Reporting by Santiago Limachi and Monica Machicao; Writing by Adam Jourdan; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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