Brazil unveils campaign to boost vaccination coverage

Rates have been on the wane countrywide

Published on 29/06/2022 - 14:24 By Pedro Peduzzi - Brasília
Updated in 29/06/2022 - 14:00

All vaccines offered under Brazil’s universal health care network SUS are tested, approved, and safe, and fake news may often prove fatal and must be disproved. Based on these principles, a campaign entitled Vacina Mais, to encourage Brazilians to vaccinate, was launched in Brasília today (Jun 29). The initiative is promoted by the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) and the World Health Organization (WHO), in association with national, state, and local health councils.

“We are working to dispel fake news that leads to death,” Fernando Pigatto, head of Brazil’s Health Council CNS, said during the launch ceremony of the initiative, aimed at “joining efforts to make the people of Brazil aware of the importance of expanding vaccination coverage.”

Brazil, he said, is one of the “few countries that offer an extensive list of free vaccines to their population.” Its national immunization program make approximately 300 million shots available against over 30 diseases in some 38 thousand vaccination booths throughout the country.

A global public asset

The campaign draws attention to the need for people to get vaccinated “more than they are doing today,” said PAHO Brazil representative Socorro Gross. “The ‘mais’ in its title [Portuguese for more, plus] symbolizes the combined efforts to achieve the increase in vaccination coverage necessary to see people healthier,” she noted.

“Also underscored as part of the campaign,” she went on to say, “is the fact that vaccines are available for free through our great SUS in all Brazilian states and cities, so people can make use of this right.”

Gross described vaccines as “one of the most effective public health measures,” arguing they should remain “a global public asset, which must not be taken away from the people, as they keep the population healthy and help eliminate diseases.” “Vaccines can save lives. They’re safe and prevent diseases, in addition to protecting vulnerable communities,” she added.

Reduced coverage

The National Health Council notes that, thanks to vaccines, smallpox was eradicated from the world in 1980. “The Americas were the first region on the planet to eliminate diseases such as poliomyelitis, in 1994, rubella and congenital rubella syndrome, in 2015, and neonatal tetanus, in 2017,” Pigatto  pointed out.

However, he went on, the high coverage rate has been on the wane in recent years, leaving millions of people at risk.

As per official figures, the number of Brazilian children vaccinated with the first dose against poliomyelitis sank from 3,121,912 in 2015 to 2,089,643 in 2021. As for the third dose, the amount went from 2,845,609 to 1,929,056 in the same time span. As a result, coverage against this disease dropped from 98 to 67 percent in the same period.

Insufficient immunization is also believed to have brought measles back to Brazil. “The country had become free of autochthonous transmission [which occurs within the national territory] of the virus that causes this illness in 2016. However, the combination of imported measles cases and low vaccine coverage led Brazil to have an outbreak, which has claimed the lives of 40 people since 2018, most among them children,” Pigatto stated.

Translation: Fabrício Ferreira -  Edition: Kleber Sampaio

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