With fake news and taboos, vaccination of adolescents becomes a public health challenge in Brazil

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Keeping the adolescent’s vaccination record up to date is a challenge and a public health issue. Comprised of seven different vaccines, the adolescent’s immunization record has been showing low vaccination coverage. The spread of fake news and taboos about some vaccines, such as HPV, are some of the reasons that keep parents and guardians and teenagers away from health centers. To discuss the topic, the Brazilian Society of Immunizations (SBIm) held on 10/31 the webmeeting ‘Vaccination of Adolescents: importance for public health’. Ana Goretti, a pediatrician from the National Immunization Program (PNI), participated in the debate; the president of SBIm, Juarez Cunha; and other experts on the subject.

The PNI representative, Ana Goretti, stressed the importance of vaccination for this age group. “The teenager is affected by external environments. The age of experimentation leaves him vulnerable and, in addition, there is the belief that nothing affects the adolescent’s health, that is, they believe that they are not exposed to diseases and therefore are resistant to vaccination ”, he explained. The expert warned that diseases such as measles, meningitis and rubella affect the health of adolescents, who can also be important transmitters of these diseases at home.

The Brazilian Immunization Society drew attention to the challenge of keeping the adolescent’s vaccination card up to date. This is because, in addition to the taboos in relation to the vaccines that make up the teenager’s notebook, nowadays young people are the main target of fake news.

There are also myths about the HPV vaccine. Ana Goretti stressed that “this important vaccine is the most affected by anti-vaccine groups”. The immunizer is indicated for girls from 9 to 14 years old and boys from 11 to 14 years old. Currently, this vaccine reaches 70% coverage in the first dose and 45% in the second for the female audience. The specialist explained that among boys this rate is even lower. “The first dose of the HPV vaccine does not reach 50% in the male audience,” he said.

The Human Papillomavirus vaccine protects against different types of cancer, such as that of the penis, anus, mouth, and especially the cervix. “If we want them to have an HPV-related cancer-free future, we need to vaccinate our teenagers. If we want a generation of women free from cervical cancer, we need to vaccinate this age group ”, warned Ana Goretti.

In addition, the PNI pediatrician recalled the importance of other vaccines in the adolescent’s calendar, such as the yellow fever, hepatitis B and triple viral vaccines, the latter essential for the prevention of measles, mumps and rubella. Ana Goretti also recalled the incorporation of the ACWY vaccine in the Unified Health System, this year, for the prevention of meningococcal meningitis. “These vaccines are safe, effective and are an important strategy for a future free of several preventable diseases”, he stressed.

TEENAGER’S VACINAL CHANNEL

Currently, in the National Immunization Program, seven vaccines are offered to adolescents, they are: hepatitis B, dT (against diphtheria and tetanus), yellow fever, viral triple (against measles, mumps and rubella), HPV (against Human Papillomavirus) ), pneumococcal (against meningitis) and meningococcal ACWY (against meningitis ACWY).

The specialist reinforced that a strategy to update the booklet of this target audience is to take advantage of the opportunity when the adolescent seeks the health post for any reason, either by an emergency or by routine consultation. She also highlighted the National Multivaccination Campaign, held to update the Adolescent Calendar. Ana Goretti also reinforced that “the Statute for Children and Adolescents guarantees the right of children and adolescents to be vaccinated and protected”.

FALL IN THE VACINAL COVERAGE

The drop in vaccination coverage during the Covid-19 pandemic is a global reality according to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef). Despite the fact that Brazil has the largest vaccination program in the world, vaccination indicators have been declining since 2016. The spread of false news, ignorance about the importance and benefits of vaccines and fear of adverse events after vaccination may be contributing to this reduction.

In Brazil, the Federal Government has adopted measures to increase access to vaccination for Brazilians in a safe and effective way. The Ministry of Health has expanded the population’s awareness strategies, as well as actions with health professionals, with the aim of maintaining high and homogeneous vaccine coverage and, consequently, reducing the risks of introducing and transmitting vaccine-preventable diseases in the country.

The National Vaccination Calendar serves the entire Brazilian population, with 15 vaccinations for children, 7 for adolescents and adults and 5 for the elderly. In addition, it serves special groups through the 52 Reference Centers for Special Immunobiologicals (CRIE).

HEALTH WITHOUT FAKE NEWS

To combat fake news, the Ministry of Health, in an innovative way, provides a WhatsApp number for sending messages from the population. It is an exclusive space to receive viral information, which is determined by the technical areas and officially answered if they are true or false.

The project, created in August 2018, has already received around 100 thousand messages. Any citizen can send free messages with images or texts that they have received through social networks to confirm that the information is correct, before continuing to share.

* Ministry of Health







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