Brazil’s Covid-19 vaccination program is at risk from people who fail to show up for their second shot. According to the Ministry of Health, 1.5 million people miss appointments for the follow-up dose needed to maximize protection.
Experts say this is particularly worrying after a recent real-world study from Chile found that Sinovac Biotech (SVA.O) The Covid-19 vaccine, which accounts for around 80% of the Brazilian program, is only 16% effective after one shot.
“Without the two doses, we don’t get full protection or long term protection,” Juarez Cunha, director of the Brazilian Society for Immunizations, told Reuters. “We need people who do the whole cycle.”
As of this week, more people had died of Covid-19 in Brazil than anywhere in the world. President Jair Bolsonaro has received widespread criticism for speaking out against lockdown measures and for promoting drugs such as hydroxychloroquine that are of little or no benefit. India has now outstripped Brazil in daily deaths.
In total, Covid-19 claimed the lives of more than 380,000 people in Brazil, the second highest death toll in the world after the United States.
The country’s vaccination program has also repeatedly missed targets as dosing fell short due to delays in drug delivery from China and India.
People’s failure to get their second dose is an added concern.
Professionals and authorities involved in the campaign said the low turnout appeared to be due to poor communication, with people either not realizing the importance of the second shot or simply forgetting when to leave.
In some cases, they said, people might also have been put off by a strong reaction to the first dose, which can often cause short-lived fever and body ache. Some vaccination sites also had long queues which can be disruptive for priority groups prone to Covid-19.
In response to a request for comment, the Ministry of Health said it was preparing a national media campaign to raise awareness of the importance of the second shot. No comment was made on why so many people fail to show up to complete their vaccination cycle.
The ministry previously said the problems were not due to a lack of gunfire. The second doses will be held back to ensure availability on schedule.
But with so many second cans remaining and the promise of future deliveries, the ministry changed its policy last month to allow all shots to be introduced as first cans.
This is in stark contrast to Chile, where the vaccination strategy has shifted to prioritizing second doses in order to get more people a first shot.
South America’s largest economy has a proud history of successful vaccination campaigns, and surveys have shown that the vast majority of Brazilians are interested in getting vaccinated. Scientists fear, however, that the message will not be conveyed through second shots.
“People have to wake up every day on the radio and on TV and hear that you have to get your second dose, that you can’t miss it,” said Cristina Bonorino, member of the scientific committee of the Brazilian Society of Immunology.
The study in Chile, which analyzed the effectiveness of the vaccine in 10.5 million people, found that effectiveness in protecting against symptomatic disease rose from 16% with the second Sinovac shot to 67%. The AstraZeneca (AZN.L) In contrast, the vaccine that makes up the rest of Brazilian vaccinations is 76% effective two weeks after the first shot. Continue reading
“If a person doesn’t get their second dose, there is no guarantee that the immunization will work at all,” said Bonorino.