The Brazilian government decided on Thursday to advance the annual flu vaccination campaign in light of the coronavirus situation in the country.
The decision was announced in a press conference held in Sao Paulo, where the only COVID-19 case in the country was confirmed. The campaign, which was initially scheduled to start in the second half of April, will now kick off on March 23.
Although the vaccine is not effective to prevent COVID-19 infection, the Brazilian government believes that, by reducing the number of cases of other types of flu, the public healthcare system's workload will be reduced when COVID-19 cases are expected to rise.
In addition, the government expects the move to streamline the diagnosis of COVID-19 cases, since the diseases included in the vaccine will not be considered.
"Knowing a patient is vaccinated will make things easier for healthcare professionals. The range of possible diagnoses will be reduced and evaluation will be easier," said Joao Gabbardo dos Reis, executive secretary of the Brazilian Ministry of Health.
The campaign, which usually focuses on priority groups such as the elderly, little children and pregnant women, will include other groups such as security forces and prison inmates this year.
The only confirmed case announced in Brazil on Wednesday was a 61-year-old man who returned from a trip to Italy, where a spike in COVID-19 cases has been registered recently. The man's relatives and several people who traveled in the same plane are under observation for possible contagion.
The number of suspected cases in Brazil jumped to 132 Thursday from 20 Wednesday. According to Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta, the rise was expected as the government has added Italy and 15 other countries to the list of return destinations for monitoring suspected cases.
Sao Paulo state government announced on Wednesday that they were in the process of establishing a new contingency center to monitor any cases. The state has the highest number of suspected cases in Brazil with 55 out of the total 132.