Prostitutes in Belo Horizonte in southeast Brazil have gone on strike for a week, demanding to be included in the group of frontline workers receiving priority COVID-19 vaccines.
Thousands of sex workers in the city have been forced by COVID-19 pandemic-related closures of hotels — where they rented rooms to sell their services — 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 Minas Gerais state, told reporters. “We need to get vaccinated.”
Vieira and other women on Monday held a protest in a street lined with shuttered hotels where they used to ply their trade, waving placards declaring: “Sex workers are professionals” and “Sex work and health.”
“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 protesting prostitutes.
The government has prioritized health workers, teachers, older people, Indigenous communities and people with underlying health conditions for the first vaccination round.
It hopes to vaccinate these priority groups, about 77 million people, in the first half of this year, but experts say that this might drag into September due to a shortage of doses.
“We are a priority group, we are health educators, peer educators. We form part of that group, since we give information about sexually transmitted infections for men, distribute condoms,” Vieira said.
Like the rest of Brazil, Minas Gerais 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.
COVID-19 has claimed more than 332,000 lives in Brazil, a toll second only to the US.
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