Northeast Consortium: Scientific Committee proposes National Vaccination Commission

Publicação: 8 de January de 2021

Researchers argue that governors from all over the country act together in all scientific discussions, operational dealings and in the definition of a unified vaccination strategy

Without coordinated action from all over the country, involving synchronized measures of social isolation, sanitary blocking of highways in all regions, and a national vaccination campaign, Brazil will not be able to defeat COVID-19 neither in the short term, nor in the medium term

The Consórcio Nordeste [Northeast Consortium] gained great notoriety in combating the pandemic in mid-March, although it was created in the first half of 2019. Through its Scientific Committee to face COVID-19, made up of representatives from all states in the region and assisted by scientists and doctors from other regions of the country and abroad, it sought to minimize the social and economic impacts caused by the pandemic in Brazil and in world in 2020. With recommendations on measures to face the pandemic, gathering information to guide and articulate the actions of the States and Municipalities to combat the new coronavirus and COVID-19, the Consortium started coordinating its members’ actions, based on guidelines to the detriment of the positions and actions of the federal government. According to Dr. Sinval Pinto Brandão Filho, ex-president of the Brazilian Society of Tropical Medicine (SBMT) and director of the Aggeu Magalhães Institute (IAM/Fiocruz), this Committee was created to assist the governors, as a response to the conclusion by the governors of the Northeast in the beginning of the epidemic in Brazil, in which the Federal Government denied and minimized the importance and impacts of the disease, without taking the necessary actions to face this great public health challenge.

For Dr. Brandão Filho, who is part of the Scientific Committee appointed by the governor of the State of Pernambuco Paulo Câmara, the articulation of the governors of the Northeast to create the Consortium was – and still is – very important for the states of the Northeast region to be able to collaborate not only to tackle the pandemic, but for other actions, such as shared purchases of medicines and other health supplies, as a political response when they realized early in 2019 that they would have difficulties with the new government that started after the 2018 elections.

Asked about the negotiations to guarantee the vaccine against COVID-19 in the Northeast region, Dr. Brandão emphasizes that the Scientific Committee and the Coordination of the Consortium interact with all multilateral and academic institutions in the search for collaborations and cooperation for necessary and quick responses to face the pandemic, as in this moment of search for delivery of vaccines for the beginning of the immunization of the population by the National Immunization Program (PNI) of the Ministry of Health, which he  expects to occur at the beginning of the year after the approval of the vaccines that will be delivered by Instituto Butantan and Fiocruz.

In December, the Scientific Committee of the Northeast Consortium to tackle COVID-19 released the 13th edition of the epidemiological newsletter, which shows the severity of the pandemic in the region and in the country. For the Committee coordinator, the neuroscientist Dr. Miguel Nicolelis, without coordinated action from all over the country, involving synchronized measures of social isolation, sanitary blocking of highways in all regions, and a national vaccination campaign, Brazil will not be able to defeat COVID-19 neither in the short term, nor in the medium term. The Committee proposes that governors create, on an emergency basis, a National Vaccination Commission composed by the main specialists in the area, to act independently and advise all Brazilian governors in defining a unified vaccination strategy for the country. The document suggests that the nine northeastern states begin to prepare, jointly, and on an emergency basis, contingency plans to carry out a vaccination campaign in the region, in case the federal government does not assume this responsibility at the national level.

The newsletter also recommends a joint action between the governors to purchase vaccines that have proven efficacy and safety demonstrated in phase 3 clinical studies and that have been approved for use by the National Health Surveillance Agency (Anvisa) or by equivalent international institutions, such as the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA). The recommendation is that vaccines approved by these institutions be used on an emergency basis by the states of the Northeast, even without formal approval by Anvisa.

The Committee also emphasized the need for measures to hinder the importation of new variants of the virus, among them, the orientation for the implantation of public or private laboratories at airports, capable of carrying out tests for Covid-19 by RT-PCR and provide results within 4 hours, as is already the case at Guarulhos Airport, in addition to the mandatory 14-day quarantine for tourists who do not submit certificates that prove the absence of infection by Sars-CoV-2, or that refuse to take the tests, or those whose have tested positive for COVID-19. Find the full edition at: https://www.comitecientifico-ne.com.br/.

Even though it is a tourist destination and its economy is damaged by the pandemic, the Northeast region put the health of the population in first place when the Northeast Consortium sent a letter to the Ministry of Health asking for the suspension of flights from the United Kingdom, Denmark, Netherlands and Australia. For Dr. Brandão, this was fundamental, in addition to the adoption of stricter social distancing measures that were taken in the various states in May and June, with the objective of flattening the incidence curve that at that time was on the rise, as well as the occupation of wards and Intensive Care Units (ICU) in public and private networks.

The decision of the Supreme Federal Court (STF) that made vaccination against COVID-19 mandatory in December, with sanctions for those who decide not to take the immunizer, are a great victory. By placing the collective interest above individual decisions, the STF took a decisive step in the battle against the pandemic, however, according to experts, it will not be enough and the war against the coronavirus continues in 2021.