Portugal and Iceland are the only countries in Europe currently holding back on vaccinating people who have contracted Covid-19 and recovered.
A report published by the ECDC (European Centre for Disease Control) has ‘identified’ this alternative approach, stressing that Portugal has said it is “evaluating the inclusion of those who have had Covid within the pandemic vaccination plan” while Iceland “does not recommend inoculation” at all.
Indeed, there are doctors who suggest that vaccinating people who have already developed Covid antibodies through natural infection could cause issues.
Belgian Dr Anne Fierlafijn told a documentary published by Oracle Films recently that there is “no safety data for this group and it is a possibility that the acquired immunity may lead to more severe side effects from the vaccine”.
This may be the reason for Iceland’s reticence. Portugal’s reasoning is wholly based on the plan to make the best use of supplies for those who need the vaccine most.
A source for the DGS health authority told TSF radio that the decision is “under constant analysis” but that for the time being vaccination of ‘recovered people’ can only happen when the availability of vaccines has increased.
Elsewhere in Europe, 15 countries vaccinate citizens who have had the virus with both doses (of Pfizer/ Moderna/ AstraZeneca), while another seven (including Spain, France, Italy) give only one dose to people who have recovered naturally.
Portugal’s General Medical Council (Ordem dos Médicos) believes Portugal’s approach is all wrong. It says the risk of reinfection is real and “even those who have had serious forms of the disease could become infected again within a period of time that no-one yet has determined’.
In a statement this week, the council’s president Miguel Guimarães says it is particularly urgent that health professionals who have had the virus and recovered receive their vaccines along with colleagues as due to their work, they are constantly ‘at risk’ and “deal with vulnerable patients who are also unprotected”.
Says the statement, ‘scientific evidence available documents a growing risk of reinfection after 90 days, particularly in individuals of or over the age of 65, and in those who are immuno-compromised’.
There is also the ‘risk’ posed by new variants.
There is still little in the form of scientific data on how long immunity conferred by the vaccines last, but it is believed to be in the region of nine months – which is roughly three times that of the 90 days determined in the case of natural infections.