Understand the importance of flu and pneumonia vaccines – 06/21/2022

Brazil has always been considered an example in terms of vaccination, both for the capillarity of the health network used for the application and for the population’s adherence to immunizations.

In 2022, however, it is clear that this positive scenario is in jeopardy. Data from the Ministry of Health indicate that vaccination coverage for the main diseases — such as measles, meningitis and hepatitis, among others — has been falling year after year and is currently reaching dangerous levels.

The case is repeated with the flu vaccine, applied annually and which usually has good demand, especially among priority audiences. This year, the national campaign failed to reach 50% coverage among these individuals and ended up being extended.

“We have always been recognized in the world for our successful campaigns and for reaching goals, but unfortunately this is not happening”, laments Amanda Alecrim de Souza, representative of SBIm (Brazilian Society of Immunizations) in Amazonas.

Why is it important to get vaccinated against the flu?

Because this is the most effective and safe way to prevent the disease and its complications.. In times of covid-19, this is even more important, as it avoids an overload on public and private health systems.

“We realize on a daily basis that the lower the vaccination rate, the greater the number of people hospitalized for influenza and complications”, says Milton Monteiro, an infectious disease nurse at the HSANP Hospital, in São Paulo.

According to him, currently, cases of hospitalizations caused by flu are quite similar in volume to cases of covid-19. “We’ve seen patients with both infections,” he says.

In addition to preventing complications, the flu vaccine also reduces the circulation of the virus. This is important because it prevents people who cannot get the vaccine —such as newborns and immunocompromised people—from being in danger. “You also protect the community by immunizing yourself”, Monteiro reinforces.

Attention to the right time of vaccination

Every year, the flu vaccine needs to be updated. This is because the influenza virus mutates annually, modifying its structure and making the vaccine less effective.

“It is important that people know that the annual vaccine is not a booster”, says Mônica Levi, director of SBIm (Brazilian Society of Immunization). “Every year, the composition changes, it’s a different vaccine,” she says.

In the public network, the flu vaccine is trivalent and prevents against three strains of the virus. This year, the composition includes H1N1, H3N2 Darwin (causing the influenza outbreak in Brazil in December 2021) and a subtype of influenza B. In the private network, the vaccine is tetravalent and includes one more subtype of influenza B. .

It is worth remembering that, like any immunizer, the flu vaccine needs about 15 days to guarantee full protection in our body. Therefore, it is important to get vaccinated when the campaign starts and not during the high season of respiratory diseases.

“What we see today is just that, people looking for the vaccine only in case of an outbreak or in the winter, in desperation”, says Amanda Alecrim de Souza. “The ideal would be for them to arrive in this period already protected”, she says.

This ends up creating situations like when a person gets vaccinated and ends up sick a day or two later — and blaming the situation on the vaccine. “This is a myth”, says the expert. “Usually, what happens is that the person was already infected with influenza days before or ends up being infected with other respiratory viruses that cause colds, for which the vaccine does not protect”, she explains.

Pneumonia deserves attention too.

You probably know someone who had a bad flu and the picture progressed to pneumonia. This is a situation that can happen, since, with the immune system working to stop the virus, the body can be vulnerable to the attack of other opportunistic pathogens.

It is the case of Streptococcus pneumoniae, popularly called pneumococcus. The bacterium is an old acquaintance of emergency rooms and causes diseases such as otitis, tonsillitis and meningitis, in addition to pneumonia itself.

In healthy adults, complications are rare. However, young children and the elderly can present serious complications due to the fragility of the immune system.

Fortunately, there are vaccines to reduce the chance of hospitalizations and deaths in these specific groups – which also include immunocompromised people and those with comorbidities or chronic diseases, such as asthma and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).

There are three types of pneumonia vaccines:

  • VPC 10 or VPC 13 – pneumococcal conjugate vaccines include 10 or 13 pneumococcal serotypes and prevent most serious diseases caused by the bacteria in children. Recommended as a routine for individuals aged from two months to six years; and over 50 years old.
  • VPP 23 – the 23-valent pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine protects against 23 types of pneumococci. It is part of the routine to vaccinate children over two years of age, adolescents and adults with a health problem that makes them more vulnerable to the disease; and elderly people over 60 years of age. It is not usually recommended for healthy children, adolescents and adults.

As the disease does not usually affect young and healthy adults seriously, it is available in the public network only for young children (it is part of the vaccination schedule) and those with chronic diseases and comorbidities.

In this case, they must be applied after guidance from the doctor accompanying the patient and can be found at CRIEs (Reference Centers for Special Immunobiologicals).

Can you take more than one vaccine at the same time?

usually yes. According to Mônica Levi, it is now possible to apply the flu and covid-19 vaccine on the same day, for example. “The interval used to be preventive; today we know that the two vaccines do not cause a reaction and can be used together”, she says.

In the case of children, it is important to consult the pediatrician or doctor accompanying the family to find out which vaccines can be applied on the same day. Normally, immunizers made from inactivated virus do not interact; whereas those that use attenuated viruses and bacteria (such as yellow fever) should be applied at another time.

Finally, it is always good to remember that, being a child, adult or elderly person, any trip to the health center is also an opportunity to check the vaccination card with a professional and update the immunization in case it is missing.

About Jenni Smith

She's our PC girl, so anything is up to her. She is also responsible for the videos of Play Crazy Game, as well as giving a leg in the news.

Check Also

Cancer: 4 novelties that can revolutionize the treatment of the disease – 06/26/2022

The largest oncology congress in the world brought important advances that, in the opinion of …