By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – With less than twenty days left until the end of the National Influenza Vaccination Campaign, Brazil’s government is hoping that Saturday’s Flu D-Day (May 13th) will encourage people to receive their flu shots. Until Monday, May 8th, only 13.6 of the 54.2 million (27.5 percent) Brazilians deemed most vulnerable to flu complications had been vaccinated.
The low turnout has not discouraged city officials in Rio de Janeiro. According to Rio’s health department, the municipality expects to vaccinate around 1.4 million people during the month-long campaign, the equivalent of 90 percent of the target population.
Rio’s health department says that a little over 407,000 of the target group were vaccinated in the first three weeks of the campaign.
Similar to Rio’s municipal government, the federal government’s goal this year is to vaccinate ninety percent of the high-risk group by May 26th. Brazil’s Ministry of Health purchased 60 million doses of the vaccine for this year’s campaign against the flu.
Among the categories in the high-risk group are the elderly, children under five years old, women who are pregnant or recently gave birth, indigenous, incarcerated population and prison staff, and health professionals.
Included for the first time this year in the high-risk group are teachers from the private and public school systems.
“The measure reinforces the importance of the education professional in the immunization strategy, since teachers have daily contact with dozens of people and take a leading role in protecting their own health, serving as an example for their students and the school community,” stated the Ministry in a press release.
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.