António Sarmento, the 65-year-old director of the department of infectious diseases in Porto’s São João hospital was the first to receive the BioNTech/ Pfizer vaccine today as Portugal’s mass vaccination programme got underway.
He described his feelings as “calm, confident, optimistic” if a little nervous due to the intense media exposure.
“The risk is not zero”, he admitted afterwards, “but then it isn’t zero for any new medication… History tells us that vaccines are very secure”, he added, suggesting that in accepting the vaccine “we will avoid thousands of deaths, whether from Covid-19 or from poverty”.
Since receiving his shot at 10am this morning, the programme has been going full pelt in various hospital centres in Lisbon, Porto and Coimbra.
São João for instance is expecting to vaccinate as many as 2000 health professionals by the end of today. Other hospital centres estimate they will be injecting another 1,950.
The president of the General Medical Council Miguel Guimarães has been among the list of people receiving their first shot of the Comirnaty vaccine (standing for community, immunity, mRNA and Covid) which will continue be rolled out among health professionals through January as other vaccines (the one developed by Moderna expected to come next) follow.
State hospitals in the Algarve are expecting to see their health professionals start receiving the vaccine from Tuesday (December 29).
Said Ana Castro president of the CHUA health administration, health professionals and patients who meet the criteria defined in the vaccination programme will be vaccinated by the end of January.
The decision to start with health professionals first has been “pragmatic”, said health minister Marta Temido, stressing the winter has only just begun and there will be a great deal in terms of risk and infections coming down the line.
Anyone wishing to find out more about this first vaccine can access the government’s information portal (click here).