By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – The national influenza vaccination campaign began this week in Brazil, with government officials hoping to vaccinate at least 54.2 million people from the at-risk groups. The vaccination campaign will go through until the end of May.
More than sixty million vaccines will be made available through the country’s public health system.
“Often, people only get the vaccine when there is a high number of cases. It is necessary that all [at-risk group] are properly protected before winter arrives, since the vaccine needs fifteen days to guarantee the effect,” noted coordinator of the National Immunization Program of the Ministry of Health, Carla Domingues.
According to officials this year’s campaign includes, for the first time, education professionals in the priority group. About 2.3 million public and private school teachers are expected to be immunized at health clinics across the country.
In addition to education professionals, those over sixty years old, children under five, health workers, indigenous population, pregnant women and those who have given birth in the last 45 days, prison population, which includes those aged 12 to 21 in socio-educational facilities, and prison staff are included in the priority group.
The city of Rio de Janeiro expects to vaccinate 1.4 million of its residents, while the state of São Paulo is forecasting the immunization of over ten million residents.
Official data from the Health Ministry shows that in the first three months of 2017 (until April 1st), 276 cases of influenza with 48 deaths were recorded nationwide. In 2016 the Ministry registered 12,174 cases of influenza of all types in Brazil resulting in 1,987 deaths.
The vaccine protects against the three most prevalent flu virus subtypes in the Southern Hemisphere, according to WHO (H1N1, H3N2 and influenza B). This year, there will be a change in the H1N1 virus strain included in the vaccine.