RIO DE JANEIRO – Health officials in Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro state on Monday accelerated vaccinating the public against yellow fever, a disease that has killed at least 137 people in 80 municipalities around the country and forced authorities to step up the immunization program against it.
Although the municipal Health Secretariat is scheduled starting next Saturday to launch a huge program at local public health centers to vaccinate the state’s entire population, thousands of people stood in line on Monday morning to receive the vaccine at 34 public centers.
“On average, this week, all of (the health centers) will do 250 applications per day. Some are already doing more than that,” state Deputy Health Secretary Cristina Lemos told the daily O Globo.
The priority this week is to vaccinate those people who have to travel to the areas most affected by the yellow fever outbreak, but many other citizens showed up anyway at health centers to be vaccinated out of fear of being infected.
In addition to the state’s two confirmed cases of yellow fever, one of whom died on March 11, regional authorities are investigating 36 other suspected cases in Rio de Janeiro, most of them in the northwestern municipality of Casemiro de Abreu.
After that first fatality, the Health Ministry announced that it was sending the state 1 million doses of the vaccine against the virus.
Since the start of the year, the southeastern states bordering on Rio de Janeiro – Minas Gerais, Sao Paulo and Espirito Santo – have been beset by an outbreak of the disease that has infected a confirmed 424 people and killed 137.
Minas Gerais, the country’s No. 2 state in population, has been the most affected with 325 confirmed cases while Espiritu Santo has had 93 cases and Sao Paulo 4.
The Brazilian government this year sent 16.15 million extra vaccine doses to states reporting cases to prevent the spread of the disease.
In addition, the World Health Organization and other international agencies announced the shipment to Brazil of 3.5 million more doses, while another 8.46 million doses produced by the state-run Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, Latin America’s largest medical research center, were placed at the government’s disposal.
Yellow fever is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which is also the vector for dengue, the zika virus and Chikungunya.