Prostitutes in the Brazilian city of Belo Horizonte have gone on a week-long strike, urging the government to give them prioritised COVID shots alongside other “front line” workers, the AFP reports.
On Monday, a group of sex workers from the Association of Prostitutes of Mins Gerais took over a street full of shuttered hotels where they once worked, in pre-pandemic times. Now they have been forced out onto the street to solicit for clients, still legally, but in a much less secure environment, prostitutes reveal.
“We are in the front line, moving the economy and we are at risk,” the association’s president Cida Vieira, who took part in the protest, told AFP. “We need to get vaccinated.”
In December, Brazil’s Health Ministry unveiled a four-stage plan for national vaccination, with health workers, indigenous people, the elderly people and those with prior health conditions being among those group of citizens – approximately 77 million people - poised to get their COVID jabs in the first three waves.
The last vaccination stage would include inoculations to teachers, first responders and security personnel; only then would the wider population, including prostitutes, be entitled to their injections.
Viera believes it's wrong to disregard Brazilian prostitutes, as they are a vulnerable, yet valuable part of the population.
“We are a priority group, we are health educators, peer educators. We form part of that group, since we give information about STIs for men, distribute condoms...” the group’s president said.
Her colleagues, who during the protest held placards proclaiming “sex workers are health professionals too”, agreed.
“We are part of the priority group because we deal with various types of people and our lives are at risk,” said one of the protesting sex workers, Lucimara Costa.
Over 5 million Brazilians have been fully vaccinated against coronavirus so far, as the country is battling the second wave of the pandemic. Brazil expects to vaccine its priority groups in the first part of 2021, but the process may take longer due to vaccine shortages. So far, Brazil has authorised only four vaccines - AstraZeneca, China's Sinovac Biotech, Pfizer and a single-shot Johnson & Johnson jab.