The threat to the Brazilian Childhood Immunisation Programme and the comeback of once thought eradicated diseases

The threat to the Brazilian Childhood Immunisation Programme and the comeback of once thought eradicated diseases
Photo: UN Cape Verde/Flickr


Amanda Lemos

America and Human Rights Researcher

Global Human Rights Defence

Brazil has been reporting cases of once considered eradicated diseases, and presenting a worrying decline in immunisation rates. The country, which is famous for its historical mandatory vaccination campaign against smallpox and the Brazilian Childhood Immunisation Programme, is now suffering with the comeback of several diseases due to the big spread of misinformation.

Brazil has a great history of mass vaccination and immunisation programmes, with decades of investment by the government to expand vaccine access from densely populated urban centres to remote indigenous communities. Health authorities opened thousands of clinics to distribute free vaccines, and incentivised childhood vaccinations by making them a requirement for low-income families to receive cash payments as part of social programmes. They would often also go door to door to vaccinate children and even created a vaccine mascote called Ze Gotinha. The vaccination programme was very strong up until very recently, when cases of measles and polio started popping up again in northern states. Health authorities initially attributed the rising numbers to the health crisis in neighbouring Venezuela, but it soon became clear that the spread of misinformation about the harm caused by vaccines had played its part.

The spread of misinformation finds great influence in President Jair Bolsonaro’s anti-vax views attached to the COVID-19 pandemic. The President has repeatedly undermined the severity of the coronavirus and called into question the safety of the Covid vaccine for children, falsely claiming that “young people are dying from Pfizer”. The former-coordinator of Brazil’s National Immunisation Programme, Carla Domingues, affirms that the President’s views have had a ripple effect on vaccines for other illnesses, which, associated with a lack of educational campaigns, has allowed disinformation to flourish and these diseases once thought to be eradicated to come back.

UNICEF’s Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, Jean Gough, affirmed that “the decline in vaccination rates in the region is alarming and puts millions of children and adolescents at risk of dangerous diseases that could be prevented”. The spread of misinformation has reached critical levels and there are still those who advertise the harm of vaccination, claiming to have proof of its dangers.

Sources and further reading:

Al Jazeera. (2022, May 27). Brazil once wiped away preventable diseases. Why are they coming back?. Retrieved June 9, 2022, from

Guia do Estudante. (2021, April 27). Brasil vacina menos e tem volta de doenças erradicadas. Retrieved June 9, 2022, from