The recent alert by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) about an outbreak of yellow fever in Venezuela once again highlighted the fragility of the country’s health system, which for five years has been experiencing the reappearance of at least four infectious diseases, despite epidemiological silence.
Yellow fever has joined the re-emergence of diphtheria and malaria in 2016, and measles in 2017, the latter three “contained” thanks to the help of international organizations, such as PAHO or the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), according to specialists in the area.
The diseases, which had not been recorded since the last century, have reappeared due to -say specialists- the lack of adequate public policies in the health system.
However, they point out that the main reason is the low epidemiological surveillance and the decrease in immunization against all vaccine-preventable diseases.
Although there is no official data on vaccination, specialists assure that there is a decrease, because, otherwise, diseases would not be resurfacing.
To date, there are alerts for the infections mentioned above, and more recently for yellow fever, a disease that seems to be being attacked with vaccinations that the government has begun to carry out in some places. However, there are also the more common diseases that have not been eradicated, such as rotavirus or pneumococcus, against which immunization is not being carried out.
Immunizations against the latter two diseases were formerly given to children in their first months of life in public health institutions, but “in recent years” this has ceased to be the case.
These vaccines have only been available in the private sector (pneumococcus and rotavirus), of course as everything in Venezuela, already dollarized, and then access is to less than 10% of the population.
The minimum wage in Venezuela is $2.40 per month and, according to the recent National Survey of Living Conditions (Encovi), 94.5% of the population lives in poverty.
The prices of vaccines in the private sector can vary, in the case of the one applied to prevent pneumococcus, between 80 and 150 dollars.
Against this backdrop, scientific societies, medical groups and NGOs specialized in health issues have expressed their concern and have called for the reinforcement of epidemiological surveillance and the publication of information on pathologies, given that Venezuela has not published epidemiology data since December 31, 2016.