Controversy over the Ministry of Health’s Decision on Influenza Vaccine
Without reasonable support, the Ministry of Health has once again taken a controversial position and remains indifferent to the request to apply the quadrivalent vaccine for influenza and its variants despite the opinion of experts who support its use.
The Importance of Efficient Vaccination Process and Anticipating Health Threats
The tragic panorama left behind by the pandemic caused by Covid-19 highlighted, among many other lessons, the importance of an efficient vaccination process and the need to anticipate those factors that threaten the health of the population. However, the authorities do not always value the experiences left behind by these episodes and underestimate or act passively when faced with warning signs.
This situation is what is occurring in the Ministry of Health with respect to the decisions that have been taken to deal with influenza, a problem that, although it is not unknown, is not being fought with the best weapons available. This would be because the sector headed by Minister Rosa Gutiérrez Palomino only plans to use trivalent vaccines instead of tetravalent ones.
Understanding the Difference Between Trivalent and Quadrivalent Vaccines
Although vaccination campaigns against influenza have been talked about for a reasonable time, the difference between the trivalent and quadrivalent vaccine lies in one key point. Although both are focused on influenza, the second does include protection against the Yamagata type B lineage. This point has captured the attention of specialists because its circulation has increased considerably to the point of tripling between 2014 and 2020.
Taking these factors into account, the World Health Organization has chosen to include the quadrivalent vaccine among the recommendations to face the flu season during 2023 and, in the same way, many countries, such as Uruguay, Paraguay, Costa Rica and others, They are applying it to the population that belongs to the risk group.
In the Peruvian case, not only is the quadrivalent vaccine not used, but vaccination coverage in recent years has shown alarming figures in the population aged sixty and over, who are among the most vulnerable groups to influenza. Whereas, in 2020, vaccination coverage only reached 69%, this number fell to 30% a year later.
However, the private sector does have the possibility of applying this quadrivalent vaccine which, as the evidence indicates, could avoid a considerable risk for the population. Although, as evidenced during the pandemic, the percentage of the population that depends on public health is higher and, therefore, the fact that this sector is the one that looks at this panorama with indifference has set off alarm bells.
A Plea to the Minister for Change
Faced with the latent risk of facing a new health emergency, which would undoubtedly be serious if it occurs in a context in which the authorities fail to develop an efficient strategy against dengue, civil organizations have raised their voices. This is the case of Voces Ciudadanas, who have sent a letter to the head of the sector requesting the use of this vaccine that offers greater protection.
In the letter signed by María del Pilar Collantes Torres, president of this regional initiative, it is warned about the importance of making a change in the approach that the Ministry of Health currently has. In addition, it is highlighted that there has been a worldwide increase in cases of type B influenza and it is pointed out that, as a result of this circulation, new strains will appear in the next twelve to fourteen months.
To these opinions were added the conclusions left by the International Symposium on Influenza held in May by the Institute of Tropical Medicine of the Cayetano Heredia Peruvian University. In this event that included specialists from Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica, Paraguay and Peruvian immunization experts, it was warned that using only the trivalent vaccine leaves people over 65 years of age, people with obesity at risk of developing severe disease and even death, with oncological diseases and even children under five years of age.
The confusion experienced during the cruelest years of the pandemic and the situation that the country currently suffers due to dengue have exposed the precariousness of the health system and a new neglect in the face of influenza could lead to a new collapse that would leave a number of victims that with an appropriate vaccination campaign could be avoided.
Covid-19, INFLUENZA, Ministry of Health, UPCH, vaccine, tetravalent vaccine