Strategies for vaccinating adolescents should involve a school environment

Raising awareness of teachers, asking for a vaccination card in school enrollment and even taking vaccinators to schools are initiatives that can help to reverse the scenario of low vaccination coverage in adolescence. Pediatrician of the National Immunization Program, Ana Goretti Kalume Maranhão participated today (10) in the National Immunization Journey and argued that improving the relationship between health and education is one of the ways to increase the protection of adolescents.

“Vaccinating teenagers is a challenge all over the world. Although teenagers think they are invincible and do not seek health facilities, they are still vulnerable to vaccine-preventable diseases”, explains the pediatrician. “It is at this age group that travel, parties indoors, sexual experimentation, drugs and alcohol begin. It is the age group that has the most access to social networks and is most influenced, and it is also the age group that has the most access to social networks. struck by the fake news“.

All these challenges only increased with the covid-19 pandemic, which caused schools to close and drove the population away from health facilities. Chasing this loss, argues Ana Goretti, requires a greater involvement of the school in vaccination. “Experience with other countries has shown that where you have the greatest vaccination coverage is where we have vaccination within the school environment”, she says, who recognizes the difficulties of doing this at a time of efforts focused on vaccination against covid. -19. “If the adolescent does not go to the health unit, the health unit needs to make a strategy to go to the adolescent”.

The pediatrician believes that promotional materials aimed at teachers are a way to bring the topic of prevention into the classroom. “A sensitized teacher has contact with the families and he is the one who has contact with the teenagers. It is not that the teacher will open the vaccination booklet, because today it is so complex that even the health professional is a little confused when analyzing her. But let this be on the agenda of our teachers.”

Another way to encourage immunization is to include the presentation of the vaccination booklet at school enrollment. Ana Goretti explains that this measure does not mean preventing the enrollment of those who are not vaccinated, but rather creating an opportunity to raise awareness in front of the presentation of the document. Data shown by her indicate that where this measure is already in force, such as Paraná, Pernambuco and Espírito Santo, the coverage of the HPV vaccine is greater than in other states that have not adopted the measure.

Considered by Ana Goretti the biggest target of the fake news, the HPV vaccine is far from reaching the goals of the National Immunization Program (PNI) and the World Health Organization (WHO). Among adolescents aged 11 to 14 years, 66% of girls and 36% of boys completed the two-dose regimen, when the targets are 90% in the case of the WHO and 80% in the case of Brazil.

Since 2017, the vaccine is recommended for girls aged 9-14 and boys aged 11-14. Brazil is one of 112 countries that apply this vaccine and has distributed more than 50 million of the 400 million doses against HPV available in the world. Even so, less than half of the target audience of girls was vaccinated with two doses in Acre (33.6%), Amapá (46.2%), Bahia (47.9%), and Maranhão (49.7% ), Pará (43.9%), Rio de Janeiro (44.6%) and Rondônia (43.1%). In the case of boys, the situation is much more serious, with Paraná being the only state that applied the two doses to more than half of the target audience, with 57.7%.

Researchers who participated in the National Immunization Day explain that the earlier the vaccine is applied, the greater the protection developed by the child throughout life. In the case of girls, they belie a fake news frequent: you don’t have to wait for your first period to get the vaccine. The protection afforded by the HPV vaccine is important in a scenario of high virus circulation, which has a prevalence of around 53% among the population aged 16 to 25 in Brazil.

Preventing this virus is important because, in addition to genital warts, it is linked to several types of cancer. Worldwide, the HPV virus is linked to 569,000 cases of cervical cancer, 61,000 cases of vulgar vaginal cancer, 92,000 cases of oropharyngeal cancer, 48,000 cases of anal cancer and 34,000 cases of penile cancer. The vaccine is a scientifically proven tool against these complications. A survey conducted over 12 years in Sweden, with 1.6 million women, showed that those vaccinated before the age of 17 had an 88% lower risk of developing cervical cancer.