Brazil has annouced the inclusion of the Covid-19 vaccine in the country’s National Immunization Program (PNI) specifically for children aged between 6 months and 5 years old. The decision, set to take effect in 2024 as reported by Agência Brasil, also contemplates the potential establishment of vaccination centers in schools, with stringent reporting regulations.
Despite mounting opposition from the public and concerns raised by experts regarding the safety of Covid vaccines for children, along with reported instances of myocarditis, pericarditis, and similar conditions in young vaccine recipients, the government pushes forward with this new policy. The Defender highlights discussions at Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies where opposition lawmakers and experts raised these apprehensions.
Nísia Trindade, the Brazilian Minister of Health, staunchly defends the policy despite the controversy, stating that families with unvaccinated children will lose support from the Bolsa Família welfare program.
In addition to mandating Covid-19 vaccines for young children, a bill under consideration by the Brazilian Senate aims to establish vaccination centers within schools, reported by Brasil 61. The PNI outlines a schedule necessitating three doses of the Covid-19 vaccine, with the first two doses administered four weeks apart and the third dose administered eight weeks following the second.
The vaccines available for children include Pfizer’s pediatric formulation for ages 6 months to 5 years and the Chinese-made CoronaVac (Sinovac) vaccine, according to the Brazilian newspaper O Dia.
The decision to enforce Covid-19 vaccination for young children, according to O Dia, is based on global scientific evidence and the country’s epidemiological data concerning Covid-19 cases and fatalities. Trindade highlighted a surge in Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) cases among Brazilian children as a contributing factor to this policy shift, citing over 3,000 cases identified in children under age 1 and more than 1,000 cases in children ages 1-4.
The Health Ministry emphasizes aligning with the World Health Organization’s recommendations, which prioritize immunization for high-risk populations, including children aged 6 months and older.
Brazilian authorities and media outlets underscore the substantial number of Covid-19-related deaths among children in Brazil as a primary reason for this measure. They reference the authorization of child vaccination by over 60 countries since late 2021 and assert the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine, citing the substantial reduction in daily Covid-19 deaths from 4,000 to 42.
However, there are dissenting voices, including infectious disease specialist Dr. Francisco Cardoso, who questions the necessity of mandatory annual Covid-19 vaccination for children aged 6 months to 5 years, identifying it as a move targeting at-risk groups.
Dr. Pierre Kory, president of the Front Line COVID-19 Critical Care Alliance, echoes concerns, stating that there’s no medical justification for vaccinating healthy children against Covid-19 due to there minimal risk of severe outcomes and their often robust natural immunity.
The policy also stipulates that compliance with the PNI and the new Covid-19 vaccination requirement will be obligatory for participation in Brazil’s social welfare program, Bolsa Família, as reported by O Dia. Established in 2003, the Bolsa Família program aims to provide basic income to impoverished Brazilians.
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