The National Immunization Commission (Conain) recommended to the Government in its last meeting to incorporate the Covid vaccine into the national calendar but with a key change: its application it would be annual in all cases except immunocompromised patients, only group for which the administration would continue to be every 6 months.

As will be remembered, the biannual dose until the last recommendation of the previous Government (in force since May 2023) reaches those over 50 years, pregnant and immunocompromised people from 6 months of age. For children under 50 years of age with non-immunosuppressive comorbidities (chronic diseases, obesity), health personnel and strategic personnel, the indication is a booster dose 6 months after the last dose administered and then continue on an annual basis.

“They agree with the annual indication of the vaccine for the entire target population except for high-risk immunocompromised people who could receive it every 6 months,” says the Conain minutes of the meeting held on April 11 and which was published almost a month later.

The document adds that “several countries in the world, some in Latin America such as Brazil, Costa Rica and Panama “They have already incorporated the Covid-19 vaccine into their national calendars.” And that the local recommendation would be for start in 2025.

The risk groups that are recommended to be incorporated into the calendar, mentioned in the minutes, are “the pediatric population, people with comorbidities, pregnant women, health personnel and older adults.” In all these cases, according to the conclusions of Conain, the dosage of the vaccine should be annual.

Mario Russo, Minister of Health of the Nation, and Angela Gentile, president of Conain, in a recent meeting.  Photo: Ministry of HealthMario Russo, Minister of Health of the Nation, and Angela Gentile, president of Conain, in a recent meeting. Photo: Ministry of Health

“With the population already immunized It is the most convenient. There are no vaccines on the calendar whose boosters are given every 6 months. The longer the time extends from one reinforcement to another the better is the answer. That is physiology of the immune system. Until now it was done every semester because it was not clear what the duration of the immune response would be, but it is now known that it lasts months or years. That’s why the idea is annualize the Covid vaccine“explained one of the experts who participated in the Conain meeting.

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Clarion consulted the Ministry of Health to find out if it will take Conain’s recommendation regarding the new scheme along with the incorporation of the Covid vaccine in the national calendar: “We are analyzing them,” was the response. Depending on the times described by the specialists, the Government would have until the end of the year to make a decision. Meanwhile, the 2023 recommendations remain in effect.

Possible incorporation of the ARVAC vaccine

The experts also stated that “it could be consider use of ARVAC vaccine according to programmatic analysis” (availability). This is the Argentine development vaccine produced between researchers from Conicet, the National University of San Martin and the Cassará laboratory, which was approved by ANMAT in October 2023 and is about to go on the market. Until now, those that continue to be applied are the messenger RNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna.

In the coming days the results of safety and efficacy of the ARVAC vaccine, to which until now only ANMAT had access. “It is so that doctors have transparent information and can recommend it based on the evidence“, they told Clarion laboratory sources. According to the data to which this media had access, the effectiveness of the vaccine against symptomatic disease is higher than 90 percent and reactogenicity (adverse effects) is very mild.

The novelty that this vaccine will also bring is that it will be the first available in pharmacies, a point in favor of access. Its cost would be around 25 thousand pesos and they are talking to prepaid companies and social works about coverage. Why would anyone seek ARVAC today if the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are available for free? “On the one hand, for the convenience of going to the pharmacy on the corner and getting it. On the other hand, because the adverse effects that were described are much lower than those of the other vaccines,” said Cassará sources.

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The ARVAC vaccine was developed entirely in Argentina, was approved by ANMAT in October 2023 and is about to go on the market.The ARVAC vaccine was developed entirely in Argentina, was approved by ANMAT in October 2023 and is about to go on the market.

The national vaccination calendar includes all the vaccines that the target population should be applied in a mandatory manner as provided by the State. Many of these are administered in the first months and years of life, while others are intended for older ages.

The fact that the Covid vaccine is incorporated into the national calendar also implies that population groups that are not included as a target for official immunization already do not have free access to reinforcements, and to be able to apply them they must buy it as with any other medication.

It is no longer a pandemic but it is a threat

Covid ceased to be a global health emergency May 5, 2023, when the World Health Organization decided so. Since then the number of cases and deaths has been declining in Argentina and in the world. In the last Epidemiological Bulletin of week 18, for example, a 64 percent fewer cases than two weeks before.

However, although in smaller volume, Covid still a threat. If compared to the flu, in 2023 there were 500 deaths for Covid against 106 for flu, that is, almost five times as much. With the addition that in the same period more than a million cases of flu and only 100 thousand of Covid were registered. That is, the fatality of SARS-CoV-2 is 0.5 percent, 50 times greater to the 0.010 percent reported for the influenza virus.

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Despite this evidence, since the 89 percent of the dead due to Covid in 2023, the corresponding booster dose was not applied, vaccination against Covid is declining. Although if the Government decides that the drug will no longer be free for everyone starting next year, those lagging behind in vaccination may seek to take advantage of the last months of free coverage to catch up and be immunized for a year without having to pay. .


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