Like many in Brazil, the tight-knit Cunha family have been ravaged by COVID-19, as the virus outpaces the country’s stuttering vaccination drive.
[Relative of COVID-19 victim, Invanila da Cunha Silva, saying:] "We lost three of our family pillars: my mother, my eldest brother and my husband.”
The family’s matriarch was known as “Dona” Ana.
The 85 year-old was given the Chinese-developed CoronaVac, the dominant vaccine in Brazil.
She appears to have been exposed to the virus just a few days after her first shot, likely leaving her with minimal protection.
Numerous other family members looking after her also fell critically ill.
In Brazil, families often step in where the state does not, caring for one another because of gaps in the health system.
One of her sons carried her to the car to receive hospital treatment.
Three days later, he - too - was hospitalized.
They both died within weeks.
[Relative of COVID-19 victim, Roberto Goncalvez da Cunha, saying:] "Even though we protected our mother, my eldest siblings were taking care of her, we tried not to visit them. In spite of that, my eldest brother and my mother got infected very fast. Sadly, maybe because of their age, they couldn't battle it.”
The Cunha family know their closeness cost them dearly but they place the blame on the country’s slow vaccine rollout.
If they lived in the U.S. or the UK, those infected would have likely been vaccinated before the virus reached their doors.
Brazil’s cities have been forced to halt inoculations because of a lack of doses as delays plague shipments of active ingredients from China.
The country’s Senate is investigating accusations of negligence and mismanagement in the government’s handling of the crisis.
Last year, for example, approaches from Pfizer Inc. to sell its vaccine to Brazil were repeatedly unanswered.
Brazil’s Health Ministry declined to comment on the criticisms and said it’s making every effort to increase vaccinations.