HUGO DELGADO/LUSA

Portugal prepares to tackle threat of “twindemic”

DGS health chiefs in Portugal are preparing for the threat of a “twindemic” this autumn – a moment when the flu virus is expected to ‘return in force’, just as the immunity of those vaccinated in the early days is likely to have fallen potentially dangerously low.

The ‘solution’ involves rolling-out flu vaccines from next month – targeting 146,000 more citizens than usual – and starting 3rd dose reinforcement of the Covid vaccines (particularly in the over-65s) from December.

Last year – when Portugal registered zero cases of flu – we were told that this was a logical consequence of all the measures of protection in place: the wearing of masks, the physical distancing, the frequent hand-washing – and the intense focus on ‘sanitisation’.

This year experts are saying that flu could nonetheless break back with a vengeance “because the lack of circulation of the flu virus means there was no reinforcement of individual protection or herd immunity”.

For the cynical, it almost sounds as if experts are trying to have it both ways. Last year: no flu (due to measures of protection), this year: a flu onslaught (due to lack of immunity)…

Who to believe?

The word “twindemic” has been coined as a result of two new studies coming out of the United States, where everyone is due to receive a 3rd dose of Covid vaccine, even though the FDA medicines agency has only recommended a 3rd dose for citizens over the age of 65.

In Portugal, pneumologist Filipe Froes insists the threat of a twindemic can be contained as long as people continue to get vaccinated against the flu.

Filipe Froes was in the news recently for the large remunerations he has received from pharmaceutical companies over the years (click here).

Meantime, the pandemic picture in Portugal continues to improve – except for when it relates to deaths in citizens over the age of 80. The lethality percentage (negligible in much younger age groups) increased over August to 9% – and many of these victims will have been double-vaccinated. This is why the plan for the winter focuses on this age group being ‘reinforced’ with vaccines in time for the coldest months which bring with them the usual round of respiratory infections.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com