Influenza is not ‘weak’ and vaccine is the best prevention; understand the importance – 05/16/2022

Since it was launched on April 4, the National Influenza Vaccination Campaign has not reached the immunization target expected for one of the target audiences of the first stage: the elderly over 60 years.

According to data from the Ministry of Health, just over 30% of the elderly were vaccinated against influenza throughout Brazil in the first month of the campaign. This first phase also included health professionals.

“It is far from desirable. The elderly are the main risk group for complications from the flu”, says Flávia Bravo, director of SBIm (Brazilian Society of Immunizations).

Tânia Chaves, infectious disease specialist, professor at the Faculty of Medicine at UFPA (Federal University of Pará) and regional representative of SBIm-Pará, says that one of the reasons for the low coverage is related to a mistaken perception that people have: “They think that the flu is a mild or weak disease, that the vaccine against it is not so important, that the covid is more serious. There are even those who think that the flu virus disappeared after the emergence of the coronavirus “.

According to Bravo, it is essential to have good dissemination and communication that simply informs the importance and availability of vaccines and the risks of infection. “The risks that low vaccination coverage can bring are several, including the appearance of outbreaks and epidemics, the increase in the number of cases of severe acute respiratory syndrome and the overload of the health system. These are consequences that come over time. because of a disease that is completely preventable by vaccine”, he says.

The flu outbreak that exploded at the end of 2021 is even pointed out as one of the consequences of low adherence, since it allowed an environment conducive to the off-season propagation of the H3N2 influenza virus epidemic, which began in Rio de Janeiro. de Janeiro and quickly spread to other states.

Who got vaccinated in 2021 should get vaccinated in 2022?

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Image: Getty Images

For those who took the immunizer during the flu outbreak in November/December last year, the question remains whether they need to be vaccinated this year. The answer is yes, because the 2021 and 2022 flu vaccines are different.

Eliane Matos dos Santos, pediatric infectious disease specialist and member of the Infectious Diseases Committee of Soperj (Sociedade de Pediatria do Estado do Rio de Janeiro), says that there was a change in one strain of influenza A and one of the strains of influenza B. Darwin’s lineage (subtype A), was included in this year’s composition.

Chaves, who is also a consultant for the SBI (Brazilian Society of Infectious Diseases), says that we should be immunized every year precisely because the flu virus undergoes frequent mutations. “Vaccines must be updated according to the circulation of influenza virus variants.”

Bravo explains that vaccines are designed to protect us during the flu season while the viruses are circulating and not throughout the year. “Influenza vaccines protect us. It’s not for everyone, it’s a statistical fact, but after six months of application we can no longer count on the same protection we had when we were immunized in the first 14 days. throughout the year, which is one more reason to get vaccinated annually”, he says.

Vaccination is the best prevention against serious conditions

Immunization against the flu is still the best preventive measure, because it stimulates our immune system to produce defense cells against the virus, according to pediatric infectious disease specialist Santos: “If we are infected before we have flu-like symptoms, our defense will produce antibodies that will protect us from getting sick, or if we do get sick, from having complications and serious conditions”.

Those who are not vaccinated against the flu, especially people who are part of risk and priority groups, may need hospital care: “The flu can be a serious disease and evolve with complications such as bacterial pneumonia. Depending on the condition, it can be mechanical ventilation is necessary and the disease can lead to death”, says the UFPA professor.

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Image: Getty Images

Other flu prevention measures include avoiding crowds, closed places without ventilation, sanitizing hands with soap and water and / or gel alcohol, avoiding scratching nose, mouth if hands are not clean. Wearing masks can also help prevent transmission of the virus.

The influenza vaccine available at health centers is trivalent and protects against strains H1N1, H3N2 and a type B. The one offered in the private network is quadrivalent and the difference is that it has one more strain than another strain of the type B influenza virus in composition, increasing the protection potential. It is important to note that those who take the trivalent vaccine will also be protected.

The director of SBIm explains that these differences are part of a natural evolution of vaccines, according to the observation of the epidemiological evolution of influenza viruses circulating around the world. According to her, most likely the quadrivalent vaccine will be available in the SUS in the next public campaigns.

This year’s National Vaccination Campaign entered its second phase on the 3rd. The new phase is aimed at children aged between 6 months and under 5 years and individuals from other priority groups, such as pregnant and postpartum women, indigenous peoples, teachers of the public and private education network, among others. The campaign ends on June 3.

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