Bolsonaro and supporters pressured Queiroga to suspend vaccination of adolescents

President Jair Bolsonaro (non-party) and his supporters put pressure on Health Minister Marcelo Queiroga, reviewing rules for teen vaccination against Covid-19.

Made in a hurry and without the knowledge of the technicians of the PNI (National Immunization Program), the decision to guide that young people under 18 years of age not be immunized took SUS managers, directors of Anvisa (National Health Surveillance Agency) and even secretaries by surprise of Queiroga.

the minister assigned the indent questions about the safety and efficacy of immunizations in adolescents.

Now the Health guides use only of the Pfizer vaccine in “teens aged 12 to 17 who have permanent disability, comorbidities or who are deprived of freedom”.

A Queiroga’s decision angered public network managers. The councils of health secretaries of states (Conass) and municipalities (Conasems) did not recommend suspending vaccination.

The entities also demanded Anvisa’s position, which approved the use of Pfizer’s immunizing agent for young people aged 12 to 17 even without comorbidity. In the late afternoon, the agency said it was investigating reports of adverse reactions, but there was no reason to change the vaccine package insert..

Government officials and SUS managers who followed the retreat say that the pressure from Bolsonaro weighed heavily, but they also cite as decisive the health fear that vaccines are lacking.

In reading secretaries heard by the report, there is no obligation to follow what the PNI guides. But applying vaccines to young people who are not Pfizer, the only one approved for children under 18, can be framed as a sanitary infraction. Questioned, the Ministry of Health did not answer if there may be any penalty.

For local health secretaries, the minister ended up fraying the dialogue and hurt the “tripartite” logic of the SUS, as the most sensitive decisions of the system pass through the Union, states and municipalities.

“By unilaterally implementing decisions without technical and scientific support, the main action to control the pandemic is put at risk,” said Conass and Conasems in a joint statement. The entities also stated that the country still has an “epidemiological situation far from what can be considered comfortable.”

Council members even considered disembarking, in protest, from discussion forums involving the ministry, but no decision has yet been taken.

In a statement to the press this Thursday (16), Queiroga acknowledged that Bolsonaro had asked questions about the vaccination of young people.

“The president asks me about these vaccination issues every day, especially with this issue of teenagers,” said the minister.

“The president is very concerned about the future of the country. Just today he called me: ‘Queiroga, look there.’ The minister did not give details about what the president asked for.

Queiroga’s allies and government members who followed the retreat claim that Bolsonaro made demands based on statements circulating on social networks of alleged adverse reactions to the vaccines.

Broadcasting on social media this Thursday night, Bolsonaro said that he has “an opinion” on youth vaccination, and that Queiroga “follows it or not.”

“My conversation with Queiroga is not an imposition. I take to him my feelings, what I read, see and come to my knowledge. WHO [Organização Mundial da Saúde] is against vaccination from 12 to 17 years old. Anvisa is in favor of vaccinating all teenagers with Pfizer. It’s a recommendation, are you obligated to follow the recommendation?” Bolsonaro said to Queiroga.

WHO is not against vaccinating adolescents. It just says that it is more urgent to vaccinate older people or people with other diseases. Already the leaflet of Anvisa must be followed.

Queiroga also tried, with the change, to make the president happy again to stay in office.

In the minister’s list of nods to Bolsonaro there is also the approval of the study for release the use of masks, contrary to expert recommendations, and recent praise for former minister and active general Eduardo Pazuello.

To justify the change in the orientation of the immunization campaign, Queiroga also cited an alleged relationship between the use of Pfizer’s vaccine and the death of a young person in the state of São Paulo.

In a statement, the São Paulo government said that the case is under investigation and called it “irresponsible to disseminate any information that brings fear and insecurity to adolescents and their families”.

The guidance to prevent the vaccination of part of the teenagers was built without fanfare and arrived on Wednesday night (15) to the managers of the SUS, the date on which the PNI planned, since the beginning of September, to open the campaign for children under 18 years.

Also on Wednesday night, Queiroga sent an audio to the program Os Pingos nos Is, on the Jovem Pan radio station, in which he stated that teenagers “without comorbidity, at the moment, will not be considered for vaccination for Covid”.

The recording was a response to the program’s criticism of youth vaccinations. One of the driving forces behind the campaign not to vaccinate teenagers yet is Ana Paula Henkel, a former volleyball athlete and radio commentator.

On September 13th, she posted on twitter that Health did not recommend the application of doses in children under 18, when the folder, in fact, already planned to immunize the group.

On Thursday, Henkel celebrated the retreat of the Ministry of Health and said, on Twitter, that Queiroga “shows leadership in protecting our children and adolescents.”

President of Conass and Secretary of Health of Maranhão, Carlos Lula said that the decision to restrict the vaccination of adolescents is the biggest blow that the PNI has received in almost 48 years of activities.

“I always thought that we could lose this heritage in view of all that happened in the fight against the pandemic, but not [por gesto] coming from a health minister,” Lula said.

After being taken by surprise, members of the Health summit were called to Queiroga’s office to line up the speech on the retreat earlier this Thursday afternoon. An ally of the minister stated that the decision was hasty and that the ministry will be forced to change its position at some point.

To journalists, Queiroga said that 3.5 million young people in this group received at least one dose before the appropriate deadline. He also stated that about 20,000 young people received vaccines that were not from Pfizer, the only one authorized for children under 18 years of age.

The federal government’s plan was to start vaccinating teenagers only on Wednesday, but Queiroga noted that some locations opened the campaign for under 18s still in August.

The minister also said that immunization cannot be an “F-1 contest” and said some managers seem to want to present campaign results as trophies.

“What we say: seniors over 70 years old should receive the booster dose from day 15 [de setembro]. Just look at what you publish: ‘we have already started to vaccinate the elderly with the third dose’, as if this were a trophy to be exhibited,” said Queiroga.

Wanted, the Palácio do Planalto told the sheet seek the Ministry of Health. Queiroga’s portfolio, on the other hand, said that the minister’s position was already exposed at the press conference.

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