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Brazil reports 7 lakh COVID deaths on a day when WHO updates vaccine norms

The Brazilian Government reported that the COVID19 in the country claimed 700,000 lives making the South American nation report the second most number of victims after the United States, on a day when the World Health Organisation’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunisation (SAGE) revised the roadmap for prioritising the use of COVID-19 vaccines, to reflect the impact of Omicron and high population-level immunity due to infection and vaccination.

According to the media reports, health experts in the country said that most of the COVID19 victims reported recently were either unvaccinated or suffering from comorbid conditions.

Refuting that there is a vaccine shortage in the country, the health ministry stated, “The vaccine currently available in every health care unit in Brazil could have changed the lives of families who lost beloved ones in the pandemic.”

Criticising the former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro for his handling of the pandemic, who, despite being infected by the virus, refused to get vaccinated and flouted health restrictions, the Health Minister of the country Nísia Trindade Lima stated, “We have to look at the past, but at the same time we have to say the health ministry cannot make the mistake of not coordinating, not taking care, not treating (the disease).”

“We need to be united so new tragedies do not happen,” Trindade, a social scientist, sociologist, researcher and university professor, added.

Meanwhile, in Geneva, the WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunisation (SAGE) revised the roadmap for prioritising the use of COVID19 vaccines, saying that healthy children and adolescents need not be vaccinated.

“Updated to reflect that much of the population is either vaccinated or previously infected with COVID19, or both, the revised roadmap reemphasises the importance of vaccinating those still at risk of severe disease, mostly older adults and those with underlying conditions, including additional boosters,” SAGE Chair, Dr Hanna Nohynek stated.

“Countries should consider their specific context in deciding whether to continue vaccinating low-risk groups, like healthy children and adolescents, while not compromising the routine vaccines that are so crucial for the health and well-being of this age group,” she added.

The revised roadmap outlines three priority-use groups for COVID19 vaccination, namely the high, medium, and low, based on the risk of severe disease and death, considering vaccine performance, cost-effectiveness, programmatic factors and community acceptance.

While the high priority group includes older adults; younger adults with significant comorbidities; immunocompromised people, including children aged 6 months and older; pregnant persons; and frontline health workers, the medium priority group includes healthy adults, usually under the age of 50-60, without comorbidities and children and adolescents with comorbidities.

On the other hand, the low-priority group includes healthy children and adolescents aged 6 months to 17 years, the SAGE said.

According to the revised guidelines, the SAGE recommended an additional booster of either 6 or 12 months after the last dose, with the timeframe depending on factors such as age and immunocompromising conditions. Due to comparatively low public health returns among the medium-priority groups, SAGE said that it does not routinely recommend additional boosters for this group, even though they are safe.

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