- mariana alvim – @marianaalvim
- From BBC News Brasil in Sao Paulo
Widely recommended by scientists and the president’s disdain during the pandemic, face masks in Brazil could be made more resilient against COVID-19, as announced by Jair Bolsonaro on Thursday (10/6).
On the same day that the country recorded more than 2,504 deaths from the disease in the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 482,019 deaths, Bolsonaro said at an event: “Our minister (health) is aiming to issue the use of a final opinion.” Masks by people who have been vaccinated or who have already been infected.”
Hours later, the health minister, Marcelo Quiroga, said the president asked for a study on the flexibility of mask use as vaccination progressed in the country.
Other parts of the world that have already gotten the disease under control and a much higher percentage of people vaccinated than Brazil are discussing relaxation in the use of masks for those who have been vaccinated – and even Such measures are becoming the target of debate and criticism by much of the scientific community.
The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced in April that people who are fully vaccinated can stop wearing masks in most places – for example, with the exception of transportation networks, hospitals and prisons. The British government is also conducting some studies to assess possible relaxation of preventive measures against COVID-19, including the requirement for masks.
“The United States and Europe began to discuss this with low levels of contagion, deaths and circulating forms,” says Dr. Estevao Urbano, director of the Brazilian Society of Infectious Diseases (SBI). This is another reality, which Brazil Absolutely incomparable with.”
Epidemiologist Antonio Augusto Moura da Silva, a professor in the Department of Public Health at the Federal University of Maranho (UFMA), shares his colleague’s troubles.
Silva says, “Abroad, the decision was made based on the high efficacy of vaccines, a vaccine coverage that has already reached 50%, and low viral circulation. There is far more control than we have. In Brazil, the disease is widespread”, Silva says, adding that the measure announced by the president “doesn’t make sense from a technical point of view.”
Let’s go to the indicators cited by doctors.
‘Loose disease’: high mortality, prevalence of infections and types
This Thursday (10), Brazil recorded an average of 1,804 daily deaths from Covid-19 over the past week. This is a number below the record previously recorded in this indicator – the moving average of 3,124 deaths, recorded on April 12, 2021 – but at a level never reached in 2020, the first year of the pandemic.
hey Latest COVID-19 Observatory Bulletin, from the Osvaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz), published on the 9th, said that the epidemic in Brazil is “configured as a high risk”, with a slight drop in the number of deaths, but the maintenance of virus transmission and much higher Bed Occupancy Rates High in Most States and Capitals: “Twenty states and the Federal District, as well as 17 capitals, have occupancy rates equal to or greater than 80%.”
According to Imperial College University, there has also been a slight decline in the virus transmission rate in the country. It is at 0.99, and was 1.02 two weeks ago. When this rate is higher than 1, it means the virus is spreading rapidly, but the epidemic is considered controlled only if the index is kept below 1 for a few weeks – which is not yet Brazil. has reached. There are also many states with rates above 1.
With these worrying factors is the prevalence of variants in the country.
“There are different types of infections, especially in Brazil today. They represent 85 to 90% of new infections”, explains SBI’s Estevao Urbano.
President Bolsonaro said his government was studying the release of the use of masks among people who have already been infected or who have already been vaccinated. The factors described above will affect in both cases.
First, a person who already has COVID-19 and no longer wears a mask is subject to potential transmission – and potential transmission – to other people, in the scenario of significant circulation of the virus and its variants.
“We know that the chance of getting a covid decreases but the risk of getting the disease does not go away. And we already know that the P.1 variant is able to re-infect people who already have it. It is estimated that Manaus at the end of the year in the outbreak, and at the beginning of the current, about 30% of infections with P.1 were re-infection”, says Antonio Augusto Moura da Silva.
“Everyone who is infected is at risk of infection. And there are asymptomatic people, who have a low risk of transmission, but they can transmit”, the epidemiologist recalls, adding that masks in Brazil today use is already low. .
low vaccination coverage
The CDC eased the use of masks after nearly half of Americans received their first dose of the vaccine. As of May 19, about 37% of the US population had received full vaccination, and about 60% of US adults had received at least the first dose.
In Brazil, 11% of the population received a full vaccination, and 24.9% received at least the first dose, according to a consortium of press vehicles based on data from state health departments.
Physicians interviewed by BBC News Brasil recalled that the vaccines administered in Brazil, especially in the country with the highest number of coronaviruses, have a high percentage of protection against severity and mortality by Covid-19. The margin of protection against infection is small, so despite vaccination, it is expected that a large number of people will still have the disease.
So freeing them from wearing masks would be reckless once again.
“You have a significant portion of vaccinated people who can still be infected and be transmitted. Issuing an absence of masks for these groups will greatly facilitate keeping up the viral circulation, it will never end, Estevao Urbano says. “And there’s also the question of how effective the vaccine is against the variant.”
“There is no chance of a scientifically based remedy”, completes the infectious disease expert.
Experts say that, abroad, officials and scientists are beginning to test the validity of the idea of ”collective immunity” in real life, also known as herd — when people with immunity against a pathogen numbers reach such a level that the disease is controlled.
This is because some countries are reaching significant numbers of vaccinated people and with the low prevalence of the virus, there is an opportunity to verify the hypothesis of mass immunity.
Like America, those who reach there are also facing practical difficulties. For example, how do you know if the customer next to you at the supermarket has actually taken two doses of the vaccine, or has stopped using a mask for some other reason, even if not vaccinated?
US officials rejected a proposal for a “vaccine passport” to prove a person’s vaccinations, arguing that it would represent a breach of privacy.
As a result, local governments and businesses are deciding whether they will require any form of proof. Major chains like Walmart and Target have allowed customers to go without masks without this requirement. Already some shows and shows require a vaccination history.
There is also concern that relaxing with a mask creates a sense of general release, including other preventive measures against the coronavirus.
Gabor Kellen, head of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Johns Hopkins University, USA, told the BBC: “There may be a misinterpretation or a sense of freedom like ‘I don’t have to do this.
“But I think the CDC realized that if they didn’t take steps that people thought were appropriate, they lost their grip on the rules that made sense.”
“If the rules don’t make sense, people won’t follow what the CDC says,” Kellen said.
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