Portugal’s education minister hopes children get vaccinated against Covid-19 in time for next school year

With experts still warning there is no data to determine if benefits outweigh the risks of extending Covid vaccines to children, Portugal’s education minister Tiago Brandão Rodrigues appears to have made up his mind.

“We strongly believe that vaccination of the youngest age groups should start as quickly as possible, if possible as early as August”, he said.

Reports repeating this statement claim Mr Brandão Rodrigues is “sharing the desire previously manifested by health minister Marta Temido”.

DGS health director Graça Freitas has already shown she is in favour too (click here).

This leaves health ‘experts’ at a disadvantage, bearing in mind policy tends to be driven by the government/ DGS.

From the World Health Organisation perspective, “more evidence is needed on the use of the different Covid-19 vaccines in children to be able to make general recommendations on vaccinating children against Covid-19”.

However the WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) has concluded that the Pfizer/BioTech vaccine is “suitable for use by people aged 12 years and above. 

“Children aged between 12 and 15 who are at high risk may be offered this vaccine alongside other priority groups for vaccination”.

In other words, very much on the side of Portugal’s ‘concerned experts’ (click here), the WHO is not supporting Tiago Brandão Rodrigues’ strong belief, nor that of Marta Temido or Graça Freitas for that matter.

For now, the ‘decision’ either way is in the hands of the Vaccine Technical Commission which should be publishing its viewpoint ‘before the start of the school year’.

Also, for now, one presumes parents will have the deciding vote (on the basis that Covid-19 vaccines are not yet part of the national programme, nor is the national programme mandatory).

In interview with Lusa, Jorge Amil Dias, President of the Specialist College of Pediatrics, stressed “the question here is if it is necessary to vaccinate children with this vaccine, on the basis that the illness in children – even when they have Covid-19 – is not serious”.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com