More than half a million people registered with the SNS health authority in Portugal have failed to respond to text messages calling them for vaccinations against Covid-19.
Explain reports, two and a half months from the ‘target’ set by vaccine task force coordinator Henrique Gouveia e Melo – to have 70% of the population immunised – the process of vaccination “has entered a decisive stage”.
The over-60s are ‘practically all vaccinated’. In this age group, there are four vaccines available, says SIC television news: Pfizer/ BioNTech, AstraZeneca, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson/ Janssen.
People aged between 50-60 are for the time being offered only three vaccines: Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson. And those between 40-50 can only take two: Moderna or Pfizer. The same goes for the next age group down the line (30-39) which should start being vaccinated from June 22.
As SIC explains, the difficulties involved in juggling the various requirements for certain ages are compromising the plan to vaccinate 100,000 people every day.
First, there is the challenge of finding venues large enough. Then there is the very real problem of ‘unanswered text messages’.
“Many ignore the message, others simply do not know how to respond”, says SIC – and thus hundreds of vaccines/ appointments remain ‘unclaimed’.
Vice-admiral Gouveia e Melo has already shown a touch of exasperation at what SIC describes as ‘age-restrictions imposed on vaccines, starting with AstraZeneca’ – believing that if vaccinations are not rolled out much faster, new variants could arise that “will end up putting all the hard work to waste”.
This is not however a universal concern as many scientists believe the vaccines will work on all current variants.
Nonetheless, this doesn’t resolve the issue of ‘unclaimed vaccines’ which could start to increase as authorities work their way through the younger cohorts.
According to Público, “almost 27% of two million SMS messages have been left unanswered”.
Last week alone, a third of the people expected for their shots in eight vaccination centres in Lisbon did not show up.
Says Expresso, that translates into 13,000 people.