By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Fearing the spread of yellow fever to states which have not yet reported cases, the Brazilian government announced on Tuesday that it will start a nationwide vaccination campaign to immunize over 77.5 million that have not yet been vaccinated by April of 2019.

Brazil,Health Minister, Ricardo Barros, explains expansion of yellow fever vaccination during Tuesday's press conference,
Health Minister, Ricardo Barros, explains expansion of yellow fever vaccination during Tuesday’s press conference, photo by Erasmo Salomao/Ministerio da Saude.

“We hope to face the new yellow fever cycle that will occur next summer with the population totally immunized,” Health Minister Ricardo Barros told reporters during a press conference.

Minister Barros, however, stated that there is not a nationwide outbreak of yellow fever currently in the country and that the government’s action is ‘one of prevention not of emergency’.

According to health officials the states of Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Bahia will be the first to extend vaccination to all municipalities. The government says that approximately 40.9 million people have yet to be vaccinated in these states.

Residents of these three states will continue to receive the fractioned dose and not the standard one. “The World Health Organization accepts the fractional vaccine in locations where the virus is circulating and areas of large populations which need to be vaccinated quickly,” said the Secretary of Health Surveillance at the Ministry of Health, Adeilson Cavalcante.

The population of the new states included in the vaccination agenda will receive the standard vaccine, according to officials. These include the states of Parana, Santa Catarina, Rio Grande do Sul in the South and Piauí, Paraíba, Pernambuco, Ceará, Alagoas, Sergipe and Rio Grande do Norte in the Northeastern region of Brazil. The remaining fourteen states have the yellow fever vaccine in their regular vaccination calendar.

The Ministry reported that between July 1, 2017 and March 13, 2018, 920 cases of yellow fever were confirmed in the country, resulting in 300 deaths. During the same time a year before (from July 2016 to March 13, 2017) the number of confirmed cases was 610 with 196 deaths.

The recent outbreak have led residents of affected areas to kill off dozens of monkeys, which the population believes transmit and transport the virus to other areas. According to health officials, however, these primates only signal to the existence of the virus in a region, since infected monkeys usually die. The yellow fever virus is transmitted by mosquitos.

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