According to the Ministry of Health, Brazil recorded 1,094 deaths due to dengue in 2023. The disease, which occurs endemically in the country, is caused by the Aedes Aegypti mosquito. And now it has a strong opponent: a vaccine that is available free of charge through the SUS.
The federal government announced the arrival of 750,000 vaccines to start an immunization campaign in the country. The ministry’s forecast is that, by the end of 2024, the government will receive a sufficient quantity of vaccines to immunize 3.2 million Brazilians aged 10 to 14 with the two doses necessary for the complete cycle, with one respecting an interval of three months between them.
The Ministry of Health announced at the end of January that it will begin applications in 521 municipalities in 16 states and the Federal District starting in February. For Dr. Raphael Rangel, biomedical virologist, professor and researcher at the infectious diseases research center at Unigranrio, this is good news.
“With a specific dengue vaccine, we can have another ally in this fight. Not only the precautions for the proliferation of mosquitoes, which must continue, but the vaccine comes with more protection for the entire population”, says the specialist.
What is known about the vaccine
Qdenga, from the company Takeda Pharma Ltda., is made up of four different serotypes of the virus that causes the disease. The vaccine was approved by the National Health Surveillance Agency (Anvisa) in March 2023. According to the regulatory body, the dose provides broad protection against dengue.
“In clinical studies, carried out by the pharmaceutical company responsible for Qdenga, immunization demonstrated a general effectiveness of 80.2% to prevent contamination, and 90.4% to prevent serious cases, requiring two doses of the immunizer”, explains Dr. Lorena Faro, infectious disease specialist and medical director of Grupo Alliança.
The specialist remembers that dengue has four serotypes, and when infected by one of them, the person acquires immunity against that specific type, but is still susceptible to the others. “Hence the importance of vaccination, which will protect the population from all serotypes,” says the doctor.
“Qdenga’s vaccination schedule has two doses, with an interval of 90 days between each one. Anyone who has already had dengue should also be vaccinated to avoid new infections or, in the case of contagion, milder symptoms. Furthermore, in these people, expect- a better response to the immunizer”, he adds.
However, the recommendation for anyone who has recently had dengue is to wait six months to get the vaccine. Anyone diagnosed with the disease during the interval between doses must maintain the vaccination schedule, as long as the period is not less than 30 days from the onset of symptoms.
Qdenga’s contraindications are the same as those for vaccines made from any live virus. In other words, pregnant and breastfeeding women and people with immunodeficiency cannot take the vaccine.
The first doses available for use in the SUS are intended for children and adolescents between 10 and 14 years old. According to Lorena, this choice is based on the epidemiology of hospitalizations, which in the country is largely concentrated in the pediatric population.
According to data from the Ministry of Health, from 2019 to 2023 there were 16,400 hospitalizations of young people in Brazil. Furthermore, the manufacturer does not have the capacity to produce larger batches of the vaccine, says the doctor.
“It is worth noting that Brazil is the first to include the vaccine in a national free distribution program. The vaccination schedule in the SUS will be released by the Ministry of Health as they receive dosages, but adults can now be vaccinated in private laboratories” , highlights.