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Study measures COVID-19 vaccine's effectiveness against variants


18/05/2021

Marina Pagno (Ministry of Health)

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A mixture of expectation and hope took over Botucatu, in the interior of São Paulo, this weekend. The city was chosen to be the stage for an unprecedented research that kicked off last Sunday (5/16), with the mass vaccination against COVID-19 of the entire adult population. More than 63,000 Botucatu residents were immunized in just one day, exceeding the expectation that 60,000 people would receive the first dose this Sunday. Minister of Health Marcelo Queiroga participated in the immunization process in the municipality, administering the first dose of the vaccine to 57-year-old Suze Helena Crespam.

The research is being carried out in partnership with the city of Botucatu, the University of Oxford, the AstraZeneca laboratory, the Gates Foundation, the São Paulo State University (Unesp) and the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz), represented by President Nísia Trindade Lima (photo: Ministry of Health)

"Now I am feeling safer, calmer, and thrilled to participate in this research and to be a Botucatu native”, Suze said.

"We will have enough vaccine doses to immunize the entire Brazilian population. But we need, besides vaccination, to encourage non-pharmacological measures, such as the masks use, and social distancing", said Queiroga, during the vaccination at Cardoso de Almeida School.

The study, supported by the Ministry of Health, will measure the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine effectiveness produced by the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz) against virus variants. Besides vaccination, the project will also carry out population testing and positive cases of genetic sequencing, to evaluate the disease behavior in Brazil.

The research has the partnership of Botucatu City Hall, Oxford University, AstraZeneca laboratory, Gates Foundation, São Paulo State University (Unesp), and Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz), represented by the president Nísia Trindade Lima. The event was attended by Sue Ann Clemens, coordinator of the Oxford-Fiocruz vaccine research centers in Brazil and of the study in Botucatu.

"We are going to expand testing, which is under study by the Ministry of Health. Botucatu is an example: it tested its population, followed the entire epidemic evolution and, this way, only in two situations did it need to make a greater restriction in mobility," said Queiroga.

D-Day

Botucatu residents between the ages of 18 and 60 who registered for the project were vaccinated between 8am and 6pm. The 45 points traditionally used as voting locations were transformed into vaccination posts. This way, the population knows exactly where they will receive the first dose, according to their electoral zone. In addition, the immunization was divided by age group, and each of them has a specific time to receive the vaccine.

In total, 80 thousand doses of the Fiocruz immunizer were donated to the study by the National Immunization Program (PNI in the Portuguese acronym). In the first two hours alone, five thousand people had already been immunized in the city, according to the city hall.

In addition to the effectiveness against the variants, the research will serve as a subsidy to compare how efficient the mass vaccination was in relation to other municipalities in the region.

The study will have an estimated eight-month duration, which will include the application of the two doses and the vaccinated population monitoring.

Unesp Visit

After the vaccination, Minister Marcelo Queiroga visited the facilities at the Hospital das Clínicas at the Unesp Medical School.

"We are in a São Paulo state interior city, the largest state in the nation, and we have managed to show that it is possible to have in the health system an efficiency that translates into research, teaching, and assistance," concluded the minister.

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