SANTIAGO – Despite government vaccination campaigns, the influenza epidemic in Chile seems to be anything but over. Today, three more people died of the AH1N1-virus that hit the country several months ago. Thousands of parents in Chile are refusing to vaccinate their children against the deadly virus.
Two deaths in the Bío Bío region and another in the city of Puerto Montt today brought the total number of deaths from the current influenza epidemic in Chile to 24.
Nationally, ever more people are being infected: last week authorities reported that this year 690 cases were registered, an increase of 41% in comparison with the same date in 2018 with 495 cases.
Vaccinating seems the most logical prevention measure and the Ministry of Health (Minsal) is promoting a nationwide vaccination campaign, targeting especially at risk groups such as elderly, children, diabetes patients and pregnant women.
Not everyone has received their vaccination though. Pharmacies are complaining about a vaccination deficit whilst thousands of parents in Chile refuse to get their children vaccinated.
By last month, 4,619 refusals of vaccinations of minors were counted in the framework of the current campaign against influenza. Last year, 6,688 cases of parents refusing to vaccinate their children were recorded. In 2017, this figure was 19,588.
The primary reason behind these refusals stem from religious beliefs. In addition, some parents don’t believe in vaccinations or don’t trust the health providers behind them.
Earlier Influenza Epidemics
Nevertheless, previous epidemics in Chile have shown that influenza is not something invented by the pharmaceutical industry. In 2009, Chile suffered from an influenza epidemic that saw over 6,000 people hospitalized.
In 1957, a US marine vessel reportedly caused an influenza outbreak in the port of Valparaíso that quickly spread to other parts of the country. In the following two years, 8,280 Chileans died of influenza, corresponding to 0.1% of the entire population.
The influenza pandemic of 1918 also reached Chile. This pandemic killed millions of people worldwide, and in Chile nearly 1% of the entire population, 34,978 people, died.
The current epidemic will not reach those numbers and government bodies and health organizations won’t let it get that far. But as the World Health Organization (WHO) wrote in its monthly update: “The 2019 influenza season appeared to have started earlier than previous years in Chile”. The epidemic is far from over.