Vaccination coverage has fallen in the past 10 years, and polio threatens Brazil again

Vaccination coverage has fallen in the past 10 years, and polio threatens Brazil again

In the past 10 years, polio vaccine coverage has decreased from 96.5% (2012) to 61.3% (2021), a number that raises alarm, especially at a time when the disease is being detected in some countries.

Data from DataSUS (Information Department of the Unified Health System) shows that as of Friday (12), the level of children vaccinated against polio – a dangerous and incurable disease – had not reached 50%.

“It is important to bear in mind that in the past, polio was a very serious disease, killing people, leaving children paralyzed and its consequences for the rest of their lives,” recalls pediatrician Renato Kfoury, director of SBIm (Brazilian Society for Immunization). ) and SBP (Brazilian Pediatric Society).

The last case of the disease here was in 1989. In 1994, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the disease eradicated in Brazil. But it has remained endemic – with frequent outbreaks – in Pakistan and Afghanistan, in Asia.

This year, samples of the virus have already been found in New York sewersIn the United States and London in the United Kingdom. Moreover, Israel and Malawi in AfricaConfirmed cases of the disease.

Maria Isabel, an infectious disease specialist and vaccine consultant at Delboni Medicina Diagnóstica, of the Dasa Network, is drawing attention to the spread of the virus.

“We live in the world in a globalized way, and when we least expect it, we can re-introduce a virus that has not spread here in Brazil,” he asserts.

Lack of epidemiological and environmental monitoring

In 2021, the World Health Organization placed Brazil alongside Haiti and Venezuela as a country at high risk of the disease returning. In addition to the low vaccination coverage, the explanation for our being in the same condition as our underdeveloped neighbors is the lack of environmental and epidemiological monitoring.

“Brazil has low environmental surveillance, low flaccid paralysis surveillance, and low immunization coverage. It’s an invitation for us to get polio here, it takes time to identify, and it’s really prevalent,” Kfoury says.

The environmental monitoring indicated by the doctor is strictly done by collecting and analyzing sewage samples, where the virus can be detected and proven to be spreading in the community.

The infectious disease specialist agrees and continues: “The big problem with polio, as it spreads in a way that people cannot easily identify, can affect someone who has not received the vaccine, and they can get the disease in the form of paralysis and have consequences for the rest of your life,” says Maria Isabel. .

What is polio disease?

Polio, a disease caused by enteroviruses, initially affects the nasopharynx and leads to intestinal infection, and in most cases, recovery is rapid.

Less than 1% of those affected will have the most severe form, which is called paralysis. In it, the virus infects the muscular system, usually the lower extremities on one side only, and the person has a supplement for the rest of his life.

“It is alarming that people who have not had the vaccine, on a quiet and safe regimen of treatment, may have an illness that will leave them with a serious problem for the rest of their lives,” says the infection specialist. .

Why did people stop vaccinating children?

There are many reasons for the low adherence to vaccines, particularly in a country the size of Brazil, and it is possible to observe the difference in behavior using data from DataSUS.

For example, in 2021, the Nordic region had the lowest coverage: 53%. Then comes the Northeast (54.5%), Southeast (63.8%), Midwest (65.8%) and South (72.2%).

“There are several causes in different locations, but against the background of all this, as a common cause for all places, there is a low perception of risk. Vaccines are successful because they eliminate diseases, and people no longer feel threatened. It is the perception of danger that drives us towards prevention,” Kfoury explains.

“We don’t have many cases of the disease, and people are not afraid of what they don’t see,” adds infectious scientist Maria Isabel.

Communication about the disease and the availability of vaccines at SUS is essential to getting Brazil to reach ideal polio vaccination rates again – over 90% compliance.

“We need to continue motivating and explaining vaccination even without people who have the disease. This also applies to health professionals. Young professionals who do not treat, do not care, do not categorically recommend, as we recommended decades ago, that the calendar is on time,” Kfoury points out.

National Vaccination Campaign

The country is in the midst of a vaccination campaign against the disease that will continue until September 9. For a child to be considered immune, they need five doses of the vaccine, three doses in the first year, one at one year and three months of age and a booster dose at 4 years of age.

In addition to polio, all immunization agents that are part of the national calendar of the National Immunization Plan (National Immunization Plan) are offered for children and adolescents up to 15 years of age.

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