Paraguay’s Jewish Community Tries To Cope With Yellow Fever Outbreak


yellow fever.jpgWith the recent outbreak of yellow fever in the country, nervous Paraguayans wait impatiently in long queues to get vaccinated against yellow fever, fomenting tension and panic on city streets.

“There’s a serious shortage of the vaccine,” Chabad’s Rabbi Leivi Feigelstock told in a phone interview, explaining that the threatening situation is provoking demonstrations and violence. The government has declared a national emergency last week.

Paraguay has received shipments of the vaccine from other countries to help it deal with the mosquito-borne disease which has claimed eight lives since its outbreak. The country is now expecting a supply of one million doses from France.

Rabbi Feigelstock and his wife waited in line with their three children, ages five, two and four, Friday morning only to be told, after a two hour wait, that the hospital had run out of its vaccine supply. Monday morning, the Feigelstocks tried again, this time waking the little ones up at 5 a.m. so that they’d get in line by 6:00, an hour and a half before the hospital opened its doors.

The experience, says  Rabbi Feigelstock, was horrible. “It is not a place anyone would like to spend time waiting around, especially with little children.”

No one he knows has been infected, but the Chabad representative’s concern for those in his community (Jewish pop. 1,000) who cannot stand in line as he and his family did, exposed for sometimes as long as five hours in unsafe conditions, has prompted him to look into the possibility of obtaining the vaccine to help those who will otherwise not be protected.

He is hoping, he says, to ensure that “the 50-100 people in the community who need help getting the vaccine, will be taken care of.”

Thus far, says Rabbi Feigelstock, none of Chabad’s programs have been slowed by the outbreak. “People thank G-d are continuing to show up at our daily minyan in the same numbers, and all of our social and educational programs are running as usual.”

With the academic year beginning in Paraguay next week, Chabad’s preschool will prepare its facilities with massive fumigation, repellent, a/c and screens to keep the children safe.

Paraguay’s last outbreak of yellow fever was in 1974.