Sex workers in a Brazilian city have gone on strike for a week, demanding to be included in the group of front-line workers receiving priority coronavirus vaccines.
Pandemic-related hotel closures in the southeastern city of Belo Horizonte have forced thousands of prostitutes to solicit for clients on the street, they say.
“We are in the front line, moving the economy and we are at risk,” Cida Vieira, president of the Association of Prostitutes of Mins Gerais state, told AFP news agency.
“We need to get vaccinated.”
Vieira and other women held a protest on Monday in a street lined with shuttered hotels where they used to work, waving placards bearing messages like ‘Sex workers are health professionals too’ and ‘Sex workers are a priority group.
“We are part of the priority group because we deal with various types of people and our lives are at risk, said Lucimara Costa,” one of the sex workers protesting said..
“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…’ said Vieira.
The Brazilian government has prioritised health workers, teachers, the elderly, indigenous people and people with underlying health conditions for the first round of vaccinations.
It hopes to vaccinate these priority groups, some 77 million people, in the first half of 2021, but experts say the process may drag into September due to a shortage of doses.
Like the rest of Brazil, Minas Gerais state has been battling a second pandemic wave, but the number of deaths per 100,000 inhabitants, at 121, is among the lowest in the country.
The Covid-19 pandemic has claimed more than 332,000 lives in Brazil, a toll second only to the United States.
On Tuesday, Brazil recorded 86,979 new cases.
For the first time, more than 4,000 deaths were recorded in a single day with 4,195 reported.