As of this Saturday (25), states and municipalities are authorized to offer the flu vaccine in the SUS to everyone over six months of age, as decided by the Ministry of Health. The new calendar, however, is at the discretion of each location.
The expansion takes place 80 days after the start of the influenza immunization campaignwhose priority groups were the elderly and health professionals.
In May, the second level included pregnant women, children, indigenous people, the prison population, teachers and other professional categories.
The target audience defined by the Ministry of Health for this year’s campaign is 77.9 million people, but only 36.1 million doses had been applied – coverage of 53.5%, until Friday (24).
Vaccination coverage is lower among pregnant women (35.2%) and children (42.6%). About 60% of the elderly sought immunization so far, the same level as health professionals.
In 2021, the largest contingents of priority groups – the elderly, children, pregnant women, postpartum women, indigenous people and health workers – had a vaccination coverage of 72.8%.
Physician Renato Kfouri, a member of the board of SBIm (Brazilian Society of Immunizations) and of the PNI (National Immunization Program) Technical Chamber, draws attention to the fact that, annually, between 70% and 75% of deaths from influenza occur in the elderly, pregnant women, children, people with chronic diseases and postpartum women.
“Once the campaign is extended and the objective of immunizing priority groups is not achieved, it is commendable that it is extended to everyone, it makes no sense to despise vaccines.”
The Ministry of Health ordered 80 million doses from the Butantan Institute. As less than half was applied, the rest will continue to be used on those who arrive at the health posts until stocks run out.
Kfouri, however, criticizes the absence of “a more effective campaign” to make priority groups aware that the flu poses a risk.
“It is the strategy that the government uses in each campaign: it extends and when it sees that it has not reached coverage, it opens it to everyone. It is not ideal, but it is what has been done in several of the years.”
For him, the ideal would be for the 80 million doses to be fully applied to populations with a greater chance of progressing to severe disease.
All the Priority groups will still be able to get vaccinated, even with the campaign expanded to other age groups.
The immunizer is updated for the influenza strains that should circulate more intensively this year, including H3N2 Darwinwhich caused outbreaks between December 2021 and January 2022 in some locations in Brazil.
It should be noted that the Covid-19 booster can be taken along with the flu vaccine, except for teenagers.
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