DGS u-turn over child vaccinations ‘led by latest data’

 

 

 

 

 

UPDATED since originally story was posted, to text that appeared in printed edition of Algarve Resident:

DGS flip-flaps on child vaccinations

Following days of intense political pressure, the DGS has this week revised its recommendations over the vaccination of children against Covid-19, saying all children from the ages of 12 are now eligible.

Two weeks ago the message was that there “wasn’t enough data” to forge through with a universal policy for children. Now director of health Graça Freitas has explained in a press conference shared with Dr Luís Graça of the vaccine technical commission “analysis of vaccination data from the United States and elsewhere in the EU for these age groups” has filled the void and allowed authorities to update their recommendations.

Previous orientation recommending the vaccine for all teens over the age of 16, and for 12-15 year olds with underlying illnesses, remains while the health authority and vaccination technical committee “will continue to accompany the evolution of scientific knowledge, the epidemiological situation and information on vaccines” to the extent that “these recommendations could be updated further, at any moment”.

It was a clumsy press conference in which Ms Freitas was quizzed over recent virus outbreaks, and deaths, in old people’s homes to the extent that she admitted deaths have been occurring in fully-vaccinated (oldest and sickest) residents.

Luís Graça then stressed: “Mortality does not mean that the vaccines are not having the desired effect”… and headlines careered into another confusing tangle.

One aspect that jarred – given the strong medical lobby against rolling-out vaccines for healthy children – was Dr Graça’s reasoning. The “best benefit” of the DGS decision to vaccinate 12-15 year olds was “the benefit of mental health well-being, social well-being and educational well-being”.

It was the first time a vaccination programme aimed at children seemed focussed on something other than a disease (that rarely affects them physically anyway).

The decision nonetheless delighted President Marcelo and prime minister António Costa, both of whom have been pushing the DGS to change their orientation for the last two weeks.

The latter took to Twitter within minutes of the press conference to say: “ “I am delighted that science has confirmed the possibility of complying with our duty to guarantee universal protection to all children over the age of 12 years”.

Vaccinations will now go forwards on designated weekends so that the roughly 400,000 contenders can all be jabbed in time for the start of the new school year.

For the time being, nothing has been said about policy for children whose parents (or own decisions) go against the recommendations.

Graça Freitas has intimated however that rules on isolation over outbreaks in schools are likely to be revised closer to the start of the new term.

ENDS

Original text:

Following days of intense pressure, the DGS has revised its recommendations over the vaccination of children against Covid-19, saying all children from the ages of 12 are now eligible.

Last week, the message was that only youngsters with underlying illnesses should be jabbed while the parents of children who wanted their sons and daughters to receive the vaccine could get a medical prescription to this effect.

Now, the policy has been updated.

Director of health Graça Freitas has explained that the new recommendation “comes as a result of analysis of vaccination data from the United States and elsewhere in the EU for these age groups”.

Previous DGS orientation, recommending the vaccine in all teens over the age of 16, and in youngsters aged from 12-15 with underlying illnesses remains, she added.

Ms Freitas cited the data Portuguese authorities have been able to study. It showed that in the more than 15 million adolescents vaccinated in America and in other countries in Europe “episodes of myocarditis and pericarditis (heart inflammation) are extremely rare, and have a benign evolution”.

Furthermore, there were no “new security alerts” coming out of the vaccine roll-out so far in this age group”.

The DGS and the Vaccination Technical Committee will “continue to accompany the evolution of scientific knowledge, the epidemiological situation and information on vaccines” to the extent that “these recommendations could be updated further, at any moment”, an official statement has concluded.

The only ‘missing detail’ now is when exactly 12-15 year olds will be expected to line up for their shots.

Say reports, the DGS predicts this will “coincide with the start of the school year or even before and leaves logistical organisation of the process to the task force coordinated by vice-admiral Henrique Gouveia e Melo” (who has been vociferous in his warnings that ‘time is running out’ to get children vaccinated in time for the autumn).

This new decision is not consensual among doctors and more particularly pediatricians, who recently published an Open Letter explaining their reticence (click here).

Reacting to today’s news, prime minister António Costa has tweeted: “I am delighted that science has confirmed the possibility of complying with our duty to guarantee universal protection to all children over the age of 12 years”.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com