Marcelo steps into pressure building for third Covid vaccine dose

President Marcelo has stepped into the ‘pressure’ that seems to be building for a third dose of Covid vaccine to be administered nationally (click here).

This latest ‘furore’ smacks of politicising. Indeed scientists and pundits are already warning as much.

First we had the World Health Organisation appealing to countries last week to ‘hold back’ on a third vaccine, to ensure poorer countries got the chance to inoculate their citizens with primary doses first.

Then came the stories that countries like France, Germany, Israel and the UK were ‘going forwards with the plan regardless’ to “protect their most vulnerable citizens”.

“Whoever is over the age of 60 and has yet to receive the third dose of vaccine is six times more susceptible to severe illness and – heaven forbid – death”, Israeli prime minister Naftali Bennett said in a statement over the weekend – just as the media in Portugal was reporting on a national study showing how antibodies dropped ‘dramatically’ six months after people were inoculated with their second vaccine doses.

The fact that the DGS health authority has said that ‘for the time being there is no necessity for a third dose of vaccine’ is clearly not enough: other countries’ politicians have taken the lead, and so should ours, says head of State Marcelo.

He told reporters yesterday that he understands the “preoccupation of the government in relation to the necessity for an eventual reinforcement of the vaccine against Covid-19”.

This came only a day after under secretary of state for health António Lacerda Sales announced that “vaccinating old people with a third dose is not on the table”.

In other words, Marcelo appears to have been over-thinking the government’s preoccupation. According to Lacerda Sales the government has made its decision and is comfortable with it.

One significant moot point is that these third vaccine doses are not ‘any vaccine’ or put another way, don’t appear to be ‘more of the same’ – unless people received the Pfizer mRNA shots to start with.

These third doses are in mRNA vaccines (Pfizer or possibly Moderna): the EU is reported to have not renewed contracts with other manufacturers.

Another ‘odd comment’ – again from Marcelo – is that in ‘understanding the government’s concern’, he said “I don’t want to advance an opinion on the subject. It is a matter for the government’s political decision…”

Yet this should be a matter for health experts. 

Immunologist Manuel Santos Rosa told SIC over the weekend that no one’s immune system can take multiple shots of a vaccine in short spaces of time. 

“It would be  better that we found alternatives to these vaccines”, he said – as it is becoming ever more clear that although useful tools in reducing the seriousness of the virus, the vaccines do not stop fully-vaccinated people from contracting Covid-19, nor from transmitting the virus (click here).

In his Sunday evening news slot on SIC television, political commentator Luís Marques Mendes warned of the ‘economic side’ of the debate for a third vaccine, stressing pharmaceutical companies involved will be making “a great deal more money”.

And as we wrote this text, the Chinese Whispers effect could be seen to be working overtime: school directors are now reported to be “calling for immunity testing of teachers and non-teaching staff and a third dose of vaccine” to avoid a return to distance learning which would create “catastrophic effects” for children.

Marcelo meantime is urging all 16-17 year olds to respond to the call to be vaccinated as this could make “all the difference to their health and their next school year”.

The problem here is that on one hand Portugal’s Head of State likes to say he doesn’t want to advance an opinion, yet on the other hand this appears to be exactly what he is doing (click here).

Meanwhile, two more elderly people have died in outbreaks that are affecting old people’s homes where all residents and staff have been fully-vaccinated (click here).

Marcelo’s response to this has been oblique: There exists a “normal side” to this, says Expresso, and the head of State calls for “attentive accompaniment”.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com