The character Zé Gotinha, Brazil’s vaccination mascot, was created in 1986 during a vaccination campaign against the polio virus. The control of this disease was only possible with the large-scale use of Sabin and Salk vaccines.
But what is polio, and why do most young people not even know someone who has had the disease?
The main cause of paralysis before the advent of vaccines, this disease marked the past of hundreds of thousands of adults and, mainly, children. One of the most feared childhood diseases of the 20th century, the name infantile paralysis emerged linked to scenes of crutches, wheelchairs and lungs of steel.
During the epidemic of the disease in Denmark, in an attempt to save the lives of children with severe forms of poliomyelitis, the anesthesiologist Bjorn Ibsen, in 1953, instituted the use of the first positive pressure ventilators. With the help of 200 medical students, who manually pumped air into the lungs of paralyzed patients, day and night, the first intensive care units were created.
There are three types of viruses that can cause the disease: wild variants 1, 2 and 3. Vaccination efforts in different regions were able to eradicate wild viruses 2 and 3 respectively in 2015 and 2019.
The persistence of wild type 1 virus still causes outbreaks of the disease in some parts of the world. Unsurprisingly, some cases are still detected in conflict zones, where vaccination is particularly difficult. The main region is on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, where cases still occur perennially, defining an endemic situation.
Other conflict regions, such as Syria and Ukraine, are quite problematic. The fall in vaccination coverage increases the number of children susceptible to the disease, activating the warning signal.
Northern Nigeria also had cases until recently. The region of conflict with the Boko Haram group made it difficult to vaccinate children. He was only able to obtain the certificate of being free of the disease from the WHO in August 2020.
Latest news raises concern. A case diagnosed in Malawi in November 2021 and the outbreak with eight cases in Israel show the resilience of the virus.
In Jerusalem, there were six cases in children who were not vaccinated, in addition to two other suspects. The virus bears resemblance to the one circulating in Pakistan, suggesting that it was imported. The occurrence resulted in the adoption of a new vaccination campaign and turned on the red light in the region.
The situation in the Americas is better. The last case occurred in 1991, in Peru, while in Brazil the last was in 1989, in Paraíba. The eradication certificate for both countries was granted in 1994.
Therefore, we have had no cases in Brazil for 27 years, thanks to the efforts of a recognized National Immunization Program. However, the current drop in vaccine coverage is putting this achievement at risk.
Less than 80% of Brazilian children complete the basic vaccination schedule for any of the preventable diseases, with a continuing downward trend. This is a disaster! We are facing the draft of yet another tragedy announced for children and adults, who could die from preventable diseases, in addition to a feared reintroduction of poliomyelitis in the country.
Vaccines have changed the history of humanity and that is an indisputable fact. It is not without time the accountability of those who attack or sabotage vaccination programs.
Or will we continue to offer space for irresponsible deniers to redraw the gloomy scenario that, at great cost, we managed to erase?
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