With vaccination below the target, the ghost of infantile paralysis returns to haunt

With vaccination below the target, the ghost of infantile paralysis returns to haunt Rio Preto

The same disease that terrified the population in the 20th century, due to the serious consequences such as paralysis or the inability to breathe without the aid of a device, returns to haunt Brazil. All due to the low vaccination coverage against polio.

In Rio Preto, for the first time in history, in 2021, the city did not reach the polio vaccination goal. Last year, the city closed vaccination coverage against disease at 85.4%. The recommended by the Ministry of Health is 95%. This year, even with a slight advance, it is still far from ideal: current coverage is 86.9%.

In an attempt to alert the population about the risks of low vaccination coverage and the importance of immunizing against diseases that have already been eradicated in Brazil, but that can come back to haunt, the Daily launches this Wednesday, the 10th, the “Necessary Protection” section, which will show weekly coverage data in Rio Preto and the national immunization calendar.

According to Michela Dias Barcelos, immunization manager in Rio Preto, despite Brazil being recognized worldwide for its immunization campaigns, in recent months, with fake news discrediting the efficiency of immunizations, especially against Covid-19, many parents have started to do not vaccinate children.

“I believe that we do not have one factor, but many that contributed to this low vaccination coverage. One of them was the fake news against vaccines. Many people were afraid and ended up losing their fear of diseases that we haven’t recorded cases for years. But it’s important to remember that we just don’t register cases, because the population is vaccinated”, said Michela.

In Brazil, the immunization schedule provides that the child receives at least five doses of vaccines against polio. Three of them are injectable and another two through the traditional “droplets”, which even give their name to the traditional character Zé Gotinha, created by the Unified Health System (SUS).

“The low vaccination coverage raises an alert that we will re-register cases of diseases that have been eradicated. Some countries, which had eliminated polio, for example, returned to register cases and outbreaks due to low vaccination coverage”, Michela recalled.

This is the case, for example, in the United States, which in July of this year identified the first case of polio in its population after 30 years. “In a globalized world, diseases arrive faster. When we have low vaccination coverage, we leave gaps for the entry of these diseases”, said Mônica Levi, director of the Brazilian Society of Immunizations (SBIm). “In Brazil, normally, people worry when something happens. I guarantee you that if a case of a child who was paralyzed by polio appears, we would have a rush for vaccination, but it can’t be like that. We have the vaccine to prevent this from happening”, completes Mônica.

For Raquel Stucchi, an infectious disease specialist at Unicamp’s Faculty of Medical Sciences, the drop in coverage is worrying. “Because the measles virus, polio virus and the bacteria that causes diphtheria have not been eradicated, they continue to circulate. The low vaccination coverage makes it easier for these diseases to come back to affect the population, especially children,” she warns.

In Brazil, the last record of poliomyelitis is from 1989. The efforts of South American countries led the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) to declare the disease eradicated in the Americas, in 1994.

However, with the low vaccination coverage in other countries, the virus never stopped circulating and was once again included in the PAHO risk list. In severe cases, the disease can cause paralysis.

Campaigns in progress

As a way of raising awareness, this week, Rio Preto started two immunization campaigns: the National Vaccination Campaign against Poliomyelitis and the National Multivaccination Campaign. Both will be held until the 9th of September, with the “D-Day”, of national mobilization, scheduled for the 20th of August. Vaccines are administered in all Basic Health Units (UBSs).

Against polio, all children aged 1 to under 5 years should receive the Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV), regardless of the number of doses they have already received. It is estimated that in Rio Preto 19,301 children of this age group receive the “droplet”.

The Multivaccination Campaign aims to update the vaccination status of children and adolescents under 15 years of age, according to the vaccination schedule. The goal is to increase vaccine coverage, which is falling across the country.

In Rio Preto, in 2022, the only immunizer that reached the target recommended by the Ministry of Health as ideal was BCG, which protects against tuberculosis, and has a vaccination coverage of 94.7%. All the other 19 immunizers that are part of the SUS routine schedule did not have the expected adherence. “We count on the population’s adhesion to increase vaccination coverage and protect ourselves from these diseases that can cause numerous complications”, says the immunization manager, Michela Barcelos. (RC)


Virus that can cause paralysis, easily preventable by vaccination

Transmitted by contaminated food and water or contact with an infected person

Many people infected with poliovirus do not get sick or have symptoms. However, those who get sick develop paralysis, which can be fatal.

The virus destroys spinal cord cells, leading to wasting and paralysis


  • Hepatitis B – Three doses, depending on vaccination status
  • Hepatitis B – Three doses, depending on vaccination status
  • Hepatitis B – Three doses, depending on vaccination status

annual booster – Children under 6 years of age, pregnant women, puerperal women, the elderly, people with chronic diseases and comorbidities, indigenous people, health workers, teachers, prison staff and
prison population

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