A month has passed since the Ministry of Health campaign started to apply to bivalent vaccine against Covid-19 in groups more vulnerable to the worsening of the disease, only one in four seniors over 70 years old eligible to receive the immunizer had taken it by March 26th.
The eligibility criterion is having the complete vaccination schedule, with at least two doses of the monovalent vaccine, the last of which must have been administered at least four months apart.
The first groups to be called were the elderly over 70 years old, immunocompromised individuals, residents of long-term care homes and their employees, indigenous people, riverside population and quilombola.
With regard to the elderly over 70 years old, the government estimates that 14 million people can receive the bivalent vaccine, but so far only 3.3 million (23.4% of the total) have sought health posts to update the booklet, according to a survey made by R7 based on data available to date.
Coverage is also low for the other groups that were called initially. Of the 1.3 million immunocompromised people, 163.9 thousand (11.9%) took the bivalent vaccine, a level similar to that of residents in long-term care homes (11.2%).
The first phase of vaccination targeted 18.7 million people, who are part of the above groups. Of this total, only 3.6 million (19.4%) took the booster with the bivalent vaccine.
On the 18th of March, the Ministry of Health released the immunizer for the entire priority group and now also includes pregnant and postpartum women, seniors over 60 and health professionals, for example — an additional 35.5 million people.
In this last group, 2.5 million (7.1%) have already been immunized, with the elderly over 60 having the highest coverage: 12.7%.
Only 4.2% of health workers took the vaccine and 0.75% of pregnant and postpartum women.
In all, of the 54.2 million Brazilians eligible to take the bivalent, about 6.2 million (11.4%) were immunized.
“We already have all the vaccines, and we can adopt that block strategy, that is, everyone who is in the priority group can attend the health unit, observing, in their city, how this call is going”, he said in the on the 18th, the Ministry’s Secretary of Health and Environment Surveillance, Ethel Maciel.
One of the reasons given by immunization specialists heard by the report for the low demand for vaccines against Covid-19 is the lower perception of risk by the population.
In addition, it is also difficult to convince people of the need to keep the dose schedule up to date, especially in a scenario of misinformation on social networks.
O R7 sought the Ministry of Health to find out what measures are being taken to increase vaccination coverage against Covid in risk groups, but did not receive a response so far.
importance of vaccination
The groups determined by the Ministry of Health to receive reinforcement with the updated version of Pfizer’s immunizer are people who, historically, are at greater risk, either due to exposure or due to health conditions that facilitate the complications of Covid-19.
About the elderly, for example, the folder cites a report by Fiocruz (Oswaldo Cruz Foundation) which reveals that from 60 onwards, the risk of hospitalization and death from Covid-19 is twice as high, when compared to all cases.
In the last 12 months, there were 28,500 deaths from Covid in Brazil, according to data from the National Civil Registry Information Center. Of this total, 24 thousand (84.3%) were elderly over 60 years old.
The scenario makes it clear that, even with vaccines available, this portion of the population is more vulnerable and, therefore, needs vaccines that guarantee more robust protection.
The same concern exists with the immunosuppressed — solid organ transplant recipients, individuals with HIV, with autoimmune diseases, undergoing cancer treatment, etc.
Another group with low vaccination coverage so far, that of indigenous people, already lives “with a high burden of morbidity and mortality, with the accumulation of infectious comorbidities, deficiencies linked to environmental contamination, as well as chronic diseases, increasing the risk of complications and deaths from Covid -19”, according to the ministry.
“Infectious diseases in these groups tend to spread quickly and reach a large part of the population”, stresses the folder, adding that the same applies to riverside and quilombola communities, “which tend to present a more intense transmission of the virus, considering several aspects of existing vulnerabilities”.
Pfizer’s bivalent vaccine in use in Brazil was approved by Anvisa (National Health Surveillance Agency) in November 2022after proof of safety and efficacy.
The new version offers additional protection against the Ômicron variant of the coronavirus, which is currently the predominant one.
The vaccine is intended only for boosters in those who completed the primary scheme (at least two doses) more than three months ago.
The priority groups for vaccination were chosen by the Ministry of Health, taking into account individuals who are at greater risk of complications if they are infected with the coronavirus or who are more exposed, such as health professionals.
A study carried out in Israel showed that bivalent vaccines reduced by 81% the number of hospitalizations for Covid-19 in elderly people over 65 years old.
There was also an 86% reduction in the risk of death in this age group, according to the survey, which analyzed data from more than 500,000 people.
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