(PAULO SPRANGER / Global Imagens )

Portugal’s ‘fraudulent vaccinations’ scandal sees task force coordinator throw in towel

Francisco Ramos, the coordinator of Portugal’s vaccination task force, has resigned after the ‘scandal’ of ‘unauthorised vaccinations’ came just too close to home.

Over the weekend, the former secretary of state for health in various Socialist governments, said the developing scandal was basically not his problem (click here). It was something for other entities to investigate and call a halt to. His job was to run the vaccination programme which has been proceeding more or less according to plan. 

But today – following intense media attention on hundreds of people who have received vaccines when they do not yet qualify them – irregularities detected in the process of selecting health professionals in the hospital he himself administrates (Lisbon’s Hospital da Cruz Vermelha Portuguesa) brought everything crashing down.

In a note sent to the country’s media desks, Dr Ramos explained: “On learning of the irregularities in the process of selection for vaccination of health professionals at the Cruz Vermelha hospital for which I am president of the executive commission, I decided that there were no longer the conditions for me to remain coordinator of the task force to elaborate Portugal’s Vaccination Plan Against Covid-19. I thus presented my resignation yesterday February 2, 2021 to the Minister of Health”.

Where that leaves the task force the country will learn over time (see story to come). For the moment, a note from the health ministry has said that its functioning “will be secured by the rest of the members of the nucleus of coordination”.

As this text went up online, two further resignations at the Hospital da Cruz Vermelha were announced. Those of the clinical director and head of nursing.

In the meantime, Manuel Carvalho of Público has written a pithy editorial entitled “The example of a man with honour”.

It explains the situation perfectly: Francisco Ramos discovered that the very hospital he is meant to be running had violated the priorities for access to the vaccines.

He did “what one would expect of a man with honour and a sense of public duty: he resigned”.

In a brutal swipe at Portugal’s government, Carvalho explains: “If a minister doesn’t resign because of the horror of SEF at Lisbon airport (click here); if a minister doesn’t resign because she’s messed up over the nomination of a prosecutor for Europe which affects the image of Portugal (click here), at least there is a man who resigns because someone at his hospital administered vaccines to people who should not have received them”.

Even Dr Ramos’ successor (see story to come) has told reporters that his predecessor “had a very honourable attitude” in resigning as he did – leaving any further explanations to Dr Ramos himself.