Photo: MANUEL DE ALMEIDA/LUSA

Marcelo “insists on vaccinating children”

President Marcelo is described today as “insisting on vaccinating children” against Covid-19.

Portugal’s head of State has no medical training, and when he took to the presidency in 2016, he was universally described (along with many qualifications and attributes) as a hypochondriac.

Marcelo is arguably one of the most popular presidents Portugal has ever had. 

What he says influences people.

And what he said yesterday, writes Correio da Manhã tabloid, when DGS director of health Graça Freitas confirmed for the umpteenth time that until there is further data on the effects of vaccination on children, the current rollout will not be targeting them, was that children between the ages of 12-15 “should be vaccinated”.

This was a jump from Graça Freitas’ orientation that “the possibility of access to vaccination should be given to any adolescent, by medical indication” (in other words, via a doctor’s prescription).

And it seems to be a jump with no scientific data backing it up whatsoever.

The arguments for children to be vaccinated are hazy: those in favour say it will ‘protect others’; that it will ‘ensure against yet another school year in which outbreaks upset academic progress’. None of this however can be proved. Indeed, if one takes on board the latest research coming out of the United States, vaccination on its own clearly does not protect others (click here).

So what are the concerns of the strong but slightly less-publicised lobby that doesn’t want children subjected to the current Covid vaccines – the long-term consequences of which are still unknown?

TSF radio carries an Open Letter signed by various doctors and health professionals – including cardiologists, surgeons, pediatricians and ‘pediatric intensive care’ experts – publicised last month, explaining all their reservations.

Their points are rarely given much in the way of exposure. Indeed, there has been practically no mention of this Open Letter since it was first published – so here is a translation of what a fairly impressive line-up of medical professionals have said. It can be found in its original format on the TSF site (click here):

The protection of children and adolescents is a medical duty, in consonance with the bioethical principles of non-maleficence (the duty of not causing harm) and the precautionary principle (in the absence of formal scientific certainty, the existence of a risk of serious harm or irreversible requires the implementation of measures that can predict this damage).

“The convention on the rights of the child, ratified by the Decree of the President of the Republic No. 49/90, of 12 September, establishes clearly in article 3 that: “All decisions concerning children, adopted by public or private social protection institutions, by courts, administrative authorities or legislative bodies will have primarily the best interests of the child.”

It is not ethically acceptable that, in alleging the objective of protecting the elderly, a decision is taken to vaccinate against Covid-19 those of pediatric age, for which the vaccine has no benefits

“The  concept of group immunity in the current situation has no solid scientific assumptions and doesn’t even make sense given that the elderly and populations most at risk in Portugal have already had access to vaccination.

“COVID-19 mRNA vaccines can cause myocarditis and pericarditis, particularly under 30 years of age, as recently warned by the Centers for Disease Control American (CDC), European Medicines Agency (EMA) and by INFARMED in Portugal.

“The occurrence of these cases of inflammatory heart disease that needed hospital treatment, and whose long-term sequelae period not known, fortunately rare, was a first sign of alert, is a reason for enormous concern as children and adolescents, by being vaccinated, will be exposed to the risk of serious adverse reactions.

“These vaccines are not yet approved, they have only one conditional use authorization while studies to verify their safety and effectiveness, in the short, medium and long term are still being developed.

“Since children and adolescents have a minimal risk of complications if they contract COVID-19, they should not be exposed to the serious adverse effects of vaccines, or medicines, still in the experimental phase.

“Children and young people have already done everything they could to help with the control of a pandemic that does not affect them directly, with immense damage to their mental health, education and well-being. 

“The vaccination would be one more sacrifice – dangerous and without benefit – than should be socially- imposed by measures that limit the constitutionally-guaranteed freedoms of citizens in Portugal”.

The letter was written and signed by:

Professor. Dr Jacinto Gonçalves – Specialist in Cardiology and Internal Medicine, formerly associate professor at the UNL New Medical School, vice-president of the Portuguese Heart Foundation (Fundação Portuguesa de Cardiologia)

Dr. António Pedro Machado – Specialist in Internal Medicine 

Dr.ª Teresa Gomes Mota – Professor in cardiology 

Dr Francisco Abecasis – Intensive care pediatric specialist

It was endorsed with the further signatures of:

Prof. Dr Ana Paula Martins – Pharmacist, Professor of the UL Faculty of Pharmacy and president of the Order of Pharmacists

Dr. Bernardo Paes de Vasconcelos – General surgeon 

Dr. Carlos Moura-­Carvalho –  Former departmental hospital chief (Laboratório de Citologia IPOFG) 

Dr.ª Elsa Fragoso -­ Pneumologist /Intensive care professor

Prof. Dr Germano de Sousa – Clinical pathologist, former associate professor at the UNL Medical School, former president of general medical council (Ordem dos Médicos) 

Dr.ª Helena Alves – Immunohemotherapy specialist physician

Dr.Hélio Paulino Pereira – Graduated hospital assistant in Orthopedics and Traumatology

Dr. Henrique Carreira – Graduated assistant in general and family medicine 

Dr.ª Inês Mafra – Orthopedic specialist

Prof. Doutor Jacinto Gonçalves – Specialist in Cardiology and internal medicine, Associate professor at Nova Medical School UNL,  Vice-­President of the Portuguese Heart Foundation 

Dr. João Estrela Martins – Orthopedic specialist

João Melo Lucas Coelho – Senior graduate assistant in General and Family Medicine

Dr. José Carlos Ramos – Medical professional. 

Doutor José Fernandes e Fernandes – Vascular surgeon, retired university lecturer at UL Faculty of Medicine

Dr. José Rodrigues Loureiro – Cardiologist

Dr. Manuel Barreira Moniz – Orthopedic specialist

Dr.ª Margarida Gardete – Practitioner of General and Family Medicine

Prof. Doutor Paulo Rego – Orthopedic specialist 

Dr.Pedro Ferreira – Pharmacist

Dr. Samuel Martins – Orthopedic specialist

Dr. Sérgio Tavares dos Santos – Urologist

Dr.ª Susana Castela – Cardiologist 

Dr.ª Teresa Gomes Mota – Cardiologist 

Dr. Tiago Marques – Hospital assistant in infectious diseases

Dr. Tiago Tribolet de Abreu – Specialist in internal medicine

Dr.ª Verónica Gouveia – Anaesthetist.

In the meantime, pressure on the DGS to change its position on vaccinating children from the ages of 12 before schools reopen next month is becoming intense.

This afternoon, under secretary of state for health António Lacerda Sales stressed the government is prepared to vaccinate healthy children “if this is the decision of the DGS” (which it quite patently, as of this week, isn’t).

The government doesn’t appear to be ready to accept ‘defeat’ on the subject. Even the coordinator of the vaccine task force, himself a Naval vice-admiral with a career in commanding submarines, has become something of a ‘health expert’ since taking up his job, warning “we do not have a lot of protection” against the virus, and that “time is running out” to be able to vaccinate children in time for the new school year.

In spite of the DGS decision that healthy children should not be included in the current vaccine rollout, the vice admiral interprets the position as “not a non-recommendation”.

This afternoon he said: “We are giving time for this decision to be consistent, solid, among health professionals”.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com