DGS “asks for two more weeks to define position on vaccinating Portugal’s children”

Despite experts recommending against the mass-vaccination of Portugal’s children, the government seems to have different ideas.

Público yesterday explained that the vaccine technical commission (of experts) has  presented its recommendations – and these are to follow both the UK’s and World Health Authority line of vaccinating only children with health problems that put them at risk if they contract Covid-19.

Today however health minister Marta Temido told journalists that the DGS has “asked for two weeks to study the opinions of the technical commission on vaccination of youngsters against Covid 19 and vaccination calendars to define a position”.

Speaking at the end of a ceremony for the signing of a protocol within the scope of the PRR (recovery and resilience plan) in Lisbon, Ms Temido stressed the “government does not recommend vaccines it only applies the recommendations of the technical entities on this matter” (see update below).

And she claimed that the information she had received was that the vaccine technical commission has asked for “more time”.

“What the DGS transmitted to us is the understanding of the vaccination technical commission that it will be desirable to have some more time. They referred us to a period of two weeks to understand in more detail what the calendars are”.

Anyone who has been following this story since pediatricians gave all their reasons for extreme caution when it comes to extending the vaccine ‘en masse’ to younger age groups (click here) will find find today’s developments puzzling – principally because news yesterday not only followed practice encouraged by the World Health Organisation, it satisfied the health experts who specialise in treating children.

Público’s story could not have been more clear: “Technical commission advises only to vaccinate 12-15 years olds with comorbidities” (click here).

The issue of ‘calendars’ didn’t enter the equation, as these are not really relevant to considering whether or not it is advisable to roll out a vaccine to age-groups that are generally not affected by Covid-19.

In other words, everything in Ms Temido’s speech hinted at a political agenda.

She did concede however that the commission’s “preliminary opinions do point to the prioritising of the 16-18 year olds” and “prioritising the vaccination of children with comorbidities in the age-groups below, between 15 to 12”.

Clearly not giving up on the direction she has already shown herself to favour (click here) she nonetheless added that the vaccination task force is “ready for any scenario” and that “if the technical indication is to vaccinate children from 12-18, we will vaccinate.

“We are prepared to start vaccinating below the ages of 18 during the last week of August”, Ms Temido told journalists. Our vaccination campaign is designed for this. We await the technical indications…”

“Costa wants children over 12 vaccinated by September 19 (but awaits DGS decision)”

Blowing the health minister’s line that “the government does not recommend vaccines” right out of the water this afternoon, Expresso has run with an excerpt on the ‘State of the Nation’ debate to show that the government most certainly does recommend vaccines.

“Costa wants children over the age of 12 vaccinated by September 19” runs the headline, adding in brackets “(but awaits the DGS decision)”.

The way the PM couched his desire (which awaits the DGS ‘decision’…) is that “it is time to extend our ambition and guarantee also the protection of children and teens, and we should do it rapidly, in time for the next school year.

“We await the final decision of the DGS on the vaccination of children and teens but everything is prepared so that vaccines can be administered to children between the ages of 12 -17 during the weekends between August 14 and September 19“.

This was perhaps the clearest example of how politicians are cherry-picking data. It will be hard to find one pediatrician who is in favour of vaccinating the nation’s children against Covid-19 (but clearly the government and DGS are now looking for him/ her).

To repeat the position of Jorge Amil Dias president of the General Medical Council’s College of Pediatric Speciality his college would like to see “solid evidence” that guarantees “the vaccines are effective” and “entirely safe” before sanctioning a blanket policy to roll them out on the nation’s children.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com