“We have a lot of immigrants; everyone living here contributes to the risk of disease”
Portugal’s Directorate-General for Health (DGS) has stressed that the country’s national vaccination programme is open to “everyone present in Portugal”, including immigrants, as “everyone living in the country contributes to the risk of disease”.
“Our vaccination programme is for everyone in Portugal. This is a public health issue. There are no borders here, nor can there be any obstacles. We have to take advantage of every opportunity, because everyone who is in Portugal contributes to the risk of disease,” Teresa Fernandes, coordinator of the national vaccination programme, tells Lusa.
According to Fernandes, “the organisation has instructions for adjusting the vaccination schedules of people arriving in the country.
“(…) We have a lot of immigrants. They go to the (health) units, they get vaccinated and the local public health teams are on the lookout for these communities to do so,” she said, explaining that the DGS is carrying out studies on vaccination uptake, with the collaboration and coordination of local public health units, to understand how to sensitise immigrant populations.
“Sometimes they may be afraid, they may not have the facility to go to the health services, so that they have access and are attended to like other people in Portugal. (Immigrants) have a right and it is a public health issue,” she said.
As to whether the children of immigrants who are born in Portugal are vaccinated straight away, the coordinator of the DGS’s national vaccination programme said that “everything is recorded” and from the moment of birth “health teams take the opportunity to make the parents aware and refer them to the health service“.
“It is at this point that we can usually get families to vaccinate the child and the rest of the family. This work is done at local level,” she said.
As to any kind of anti-vaccine movements in Portugal, Teresa Fernandes assured the DGS is “monitoring the situation” and there is “no reason to talk about it”.
“We are measuring and carrying out studies more regularly on vaccination uptake and predictors (…) in order to know where we should act, where they are located, what the characteristics are of the people who adhere less to vaccination and to develop specific measures. At the moment, we have no reason to talk about this issue, because we continue to monitor that people are adhering and in Portugal they demand vaccination, fortunately,” she concluded.