SAO PAULO | April 13, 2018 (AP)(STL.News) — Brazil’s yellow fever vaccination campaign has fallen significantly short of its goal, the Health Ministry acknowledged this week, saying that 10 million people in the targeted population still need to be immunized.
In January, the ministry launched a campaign to vaccinate more than 23 million people in three states affected by the largest outbreak of the mosquito-borne disease in decades. While officials previously said the campaign was struggling to meet its goal, the ministry said in March that it had vaccinated 76 percent of the targeted population.
But on Thursday, the ministry significantly revised down that figure. It said that Bahia state had reached a 55 percent vaccination rate, Sao Paulo state a 52 percent rate and Rio de Janeiro state just 41 percent. The ministry’s goal is to reach 95 percent of the targeted population since the vaccine won’t be appropriate for some people.
The ministry did not immediately respond to a request to explain the revision.
Yellow fever has long been endemic in large swaths of Brazil, but it has been advancing in recent years and this is the second outbreak in a row in places where vaccinations for the disease were not routine.
The current outbreak is the largest in more than three decades in Latin America’s largest nation. So far, 1,127 people have been infected; of those, 331 have died.
During the 2016-2017 outbreak, more than 770 people were infected after nearly a decade during which Brazil saw fewer than 10 cases each year.
In response to this advance, Brazil decided to offer routine vaccination for the entire country — but it will take about another year to completely roll that out.
In the meantime, health officials are relying on the vaccination campaign to reach people in areas currently most at risk. The campaign, however, has been dogged by rumors that the vaccine is unsafe or ineffective, and health officials have struggled to effectively combat misinformation and get people into health centers.