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Isabel Andrade, 18, was one of the first to arrive at the vaccination post on Saturday drive Thru mounted at the Memorial da América Latina and eagerly awaited their turn, to the sound of Carnival blocks hired by the City of São Paulo to pack the Vaccine Upset, which administered the first dose of immunizers against covid-19 to nearly 500,000 people aged 18 to 21 over the weekend (the expectation was 600,000 vaccinated). “I’ve been avoiding leaving my house since the beginning of the pandemic, but now I can dream of a street party, right? I can’t wait!”, she celebrated. The adherence of young people like Isabel to the immunization campaign is one of the factors pointed out by infectologists so that Brazil has applied the first dose to 73% of the adult population, according to data from the state health departments, surpassing the United States (whose percentage is 71%, according to the country’s official data), where the anti-vaccination movement has driven this age group away from immunization posts — with arguments that range from parental bans to fallacies about the risks of infertility in women.
São Paulo is the state with the most advanced rate of vaccination: 66.7% of the population has been vaccinated with the first dose or single dose and, in the capital, 98.5% of adults have already received the first dose of the immunizing agent. The numbers have generated hope and social networks celebrate the Brazilian way to adhere to any mass phenomenon. “The anti-vaccination movement finds an obstacle in Brazil, which is that Brazilians love 1) free things in general, 2) anything everyone is doing and 3) anything they can take a picture of top to post on the networks,” described a Twitter user.
Francisco Ivanildo Oliveira, an infectious disease specialist at Hospital Emílio Ribas, cannot disagree. “Brazilians do have a predisposition to get vaccinated. Fortunately, despite the existence of a small anti-vaccination group in the country, it seems to be mobilized more by political ideologies than by scientific skepticism”, he comments. The expert recalls recent public opinion polls, such as the one carried out by the Datafolha Institute in July, which indicated that 94% of the population wants to be immunized against covid-19.
“Young people are absolutely in need of a party, and the immunization campaign brought together two blocks, those who line up almost like someone going to a micareta and those who do it out of a deep sense of moral duty,” says psychoanalyst Christian Dunker. He recalls that Generation Z is characterized by a certain moralism, an adherence to global values that leads them to act in a disciplined manner when it comes to do what is right. “It is true that we see clandestine parties, people without wearing masks correctly, but there is also a streak of solidarity, especially when it comes to family, when you have vulnerable grandparents, fathers and mothers. This mobilizes young people from all social classes”, he adds. The psychoanalyst also recalls that, in the context of suspension of classes, collapse of universities and other factors, adherence to vaccination is a “response to negligence and felt negligence” by actions of the public authorities, especially the Federal Government.
For Xico Sá, columnist for EL PAÍS, the “party hope” contributes to the advance of vaccination in the country. “It is the effect of this party that is being announced. I’ve seen these kids aged 18 or over combining vaccine and New Year’s Eve on the beach with friends. It is in this package that the immunization campaign works. The promise of happiness, Brazilian hedonism kills the denial business”, he says. He adds that the current moment in Brazil is one of “reinforcing this belief in the vaccine, in science, in happiness without needing to go underground” of parties that take place while the country still has 900 deaths per day per covid-19 in the moving average calculated by the Ministry of health.
Oliveira believes that the publicity around the vaccine against the disease was well done, in the sense that it also serves to “liberate” people from confinement, but he fears that it was done in an exaggerated way — this Monday, the governor of São Paulo, João Doria, celebrated the Day of Hope, after vaccinating almost the entire adult population of the state and announced that on Wednesday should start the immunization of young people between 12 and 17 years old, first for those with disabilities or comorbidities, pregnant women and postpartum women. “We need to try to modulate this enthusiasm, without letting people down, but I also have an 18-year-old daughter and I had to remind her that it’s still not possible to celebrate, only after the second dose”, says the infectious disease specialist. He recalls that, although scientific studies show that the effectiveness of immunizing agents tends to be greater in the young population, Brazil still has the risk of experiencing a spike in cases like those in Israel and the United Kingdom, mainly due to the delta variant of the coronavirus, with greater transmissibility.
Another warning factor is the heterogeneity in the distribution of vaccine doses between Brazilian states and cities: in Salvador (BA), for example, immunization was suspended on Sunday. On August 11, the Ministry of Health had 9.5 million doses in stock, while the Governments of Pará and Rio de Janeiro complained about the delay in the distribution of vaccines to their States. “Brazil is still in a hurry. We have a large part of our population without the first dose and even less with the full regimen. The distribution must comply with a proportion that contemplates the Brazilian population finishing the vaccination schedule in the same way, at the same time or close to it, but the distribution has to be swift”, commented, at the time, Renato Kfouri, director of the Brazilian Society of Immunizations . According to data from the Ministry of Health, only 28.68% of the population over 18 years of age is fully immunized in the country (that is, with two doses or a single dose).
Therefore, Francisco de Oliveira recalls that, in order to really have something to celebrate, it is necessary to “rescue those who were left behind”, with campaigns to attract people who did not show up at the clinics to take the second dose of the vaccine or even the first, mainly among the older priority groups.
Xico Sá remembers journalist Carlos Heitor Cony (Rio de Janeiro, 1926-2018), who wrote about his “historical envy” of the Cariocas who lived through the 1919 Carnival, the first after the Spanish flu crisis: after months of coffin parades through the streets, the people held a cathartic survival feast. “What is happening now is an expectation of this celebration”, he says. And, although experts warn that there is still no way to go back to the parties, it is possible to nurture this hope of party euphoria. As Christian Dunker says, “the vaccine is the way to freedom”.
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