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Montevideo, February 22nd 2024 - 10:54 UTC



Argentines not too keen on taking Covid-19 booster shots

Monday, June 13th 2022 - 09:32 UTC
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The Health Ministry has insisted boosters work The Health Ministry has insisted boosters work

Argentine health authorities have reported that. although the COVID-19 pandemic is not over yet, fewer people showed up for their boosted dose of vaccine, due to a false low-risk perception which makes coverage not sufficient.

While over 82% of the population has taken a full two-shot scheme, additional jabs have been skipped persistently despite the increase in the number of cases during May.

Scientists insist these injections are the best way to prevent infection, severe symptoms, and possible death.

“The low compliance of the population to get the fourth dose has a lot to do with the messages that have been installed in relation to covid during these last months. It has been spread that the pandemic is over and that covid if one is vaccinated, is only the flu. In this way, it becomes very difficult to motivate the population to get a new dose”, points out Rodrigo Quiroga, PhD in Chemical Sciences and bioinformatician at the National Council for Scientific and Technical Research (CONICET) told Página 12. “We have not finished instilling the idea that it is better to prevent infections,” he added.

“Argentina needs to vaccinate more. It is a problem that many countries are having. Although we have very good coverage of first and second doses, the same does not happen with the booster,” Daniela Hozbor, a biochemist and Conicet's main researcher at La Plata's Institute of Biotechnology and Molecular Biology. “The Omicron variant means that we need to have more coverage, both because of its contagiousness and its capacity to evade the immune response. Two doses are not enough to protect us from severe disease and death,” she stressed in a report carried on Página 12.

According to official data, 90% of the population received the first dose, 82% the second, and 56% the booster.

“The stabilization of the pandemic has led people to think that the pandemic is over. People no longer perceive that it is necessary to be protected against this virus. At the same time, it seems to me that it is necessary to reinforce the communication campaign,” Hozbor insisted.

The Federal Health Council (Cofesa) which gathers health ministers from all 23 provinces plus those of the City of Buenos Aires and the federal government had agreed back in April on the need for a fourth injection (second booster), after which it began to be applied nationwide to priority groups (healthcare staff, people over 50 years of age and immunocompromised children). Minors over 12 years old with a complete primary scheme were prescribed the first booster of RNA vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna).

The second booster is to be received 120 days after the third dose and also 90 days after having had COVID-19. These vaccines can be taken together with those against influenza.

“Since the swabbing criteria were changed, everything becomes more difficult. We cannot compare with the previous numbers, it would seem that the impact of this fourth wave is minuscule, when in fact it is not”, warns Quiroga. And he adds: “We have to think that, even if the whole population is immunized, this virus continues to be the most serious respiratory disease we can catch. The virus continues to mutate, with new variants that generate new waves.”

“The number of deaths in each wave depends on the population's protection against severe disease and the number of infections. The more people infected, the more deaths,” he added.

The big difference in the number of deaths between the 2021 wave caused by Gamma and Delta (which caused 60,000 deaths) and the Omicron wave in January 2022 (which caused 10,000 deaths) is the vaccines. “Vaccination significantly reduced the negative impact of this virus,” Hozbor stressed.

Regarding immunity acquired through vaccines, the World Health Organization (WHO) admits research is still underway on the intensity and duration of this protection. Infectiologists insist the body needs to boost immunity after 4 to 6 months. Hence, the importance of booster doses.

According to several scientific studies, the combination of vaccines provides a greater immune response to the virus. The generation of antibodies is the main objective of a vaccine. But if the cellular immunity response is also added, the body's defense system can be strengthened and protection against the virus can be improved.

The risk of death from COVID with an initial schedule plus boosters for an adult over 50 years of age is 18 times lower than if he/she did not receive a single dose or no vaccine at all, scientists explain. However, the amount of virus-neutralizing antibodies provided by the vaccines decreases over time. Large-scale COVID-19 vaccination campaigns are helping to control the spread of the virus, but even in countries with high vaccination rates, occasional infections occur due to a gradual loss of immunity over time.

“It is important the application of a third dose, for the general population, as a fourth for the immunocompromised or those older than 50 years who were immunized with inactivated or attenuated virus vaccines; as is the case of Sinopharm. In Argentina, booster doses were approved for those over 18 years of age, in November, at 6 months. Then, in January, it was shortened to 4 months. And at the end of February, a booster was promoted, also at 4 months, for adolescents,” explained Pablo Bonvehí, a member of the National Committee on Immunizations (CoNaIn).

The Federal Health Ministry has released a video explaining the purpose and importance of vaccine boosters, at a time when people do not show up when they are summoned.

Foor health purposes, the Argentine society has been divided into three groups: those unvaccinated or with only one dose applied, those who have the complete scheme, and those who have already had three or four doses applied.

Then the National Directorate of Epidemiology forecast how many people from each group would be expected to die from COVID: 186 for group 1, 45 for group 2, and 12 for group 3. In other words, for an adult over 50 years of age, the death risk is 18 times lower than if he/she did not receive a single dose or no vaccine. In the 20 to 49 years age group, the mortality rate is 4% for group 1, 1% for group 2. and 0.3 for group 3.

Categories: Health & Science, Argentina.

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