With countries like UK changing vaccine protocols in order to give more people their first shots than would otherwise be possible, Portugal has stuck to the pharmaceutical guidance and is distributing second shots in its national programme this week.
As many as 30,000 healthcare workers and elderly people in care homes will be starting to receive their second dose of the BioNTech/ Pfizer vaccine.
These shots began being rolled out yesterday (Sunday) in Lisbon (the hospitals of São José and Curry Cabral) and move on this week into Santa Maria (also in the capital), to Porto’s São João and Santo António hospitals as well as to the pediatric hospital in Coimbra.
Changes in the distribution schedule, prompted by ‘tweaks’ that BioNTech/ Pfizer are said to be making, will alter the amounts of vaccines coming through, a statement by the Ministry of Health has admitted, but by and large the national vaccination programme is progressing as planned.
By Friday last week, 106,000 people had received their first shots (including staff and residents in old people’s homes).
There have been calls for members of government/ key politicians to be ‘fast-forwarded’ for immunisation on the basis that it would ensure they could stay at their posts. Right now, for example, the minister of finance João Leão has tested positive, throwing a fairly substantial spanner in the smooth workings of government: economy minister Pedro Siza Vieira has had to go into prophylactic isolation while European commissioners (who had been in contact with Leão) are now also forced into self-isolation.
Television commentator Marques Mendes believes these political hiccups should and could so easily be avoided if powermakers were vaccinated in the first phase.
That said, questions now are on how ‘meaningful’ the vaccinations are in terms of limiting transmission.
Australia for example is unlikely to fully open its borders this year even if most of its population gets vaccinated as planned, because no-one knows whether this will prevent transmission of the virus, department of health secretary Brendan Murphy has told reporters.
There are also questions over how long these new vaccines will prove effective. It has already been suggested that people may require annual shots of the Covid vaccine – which given the numbers involved, will become a process akin to the painting of the Forth Bridge.