Photo: BIONTECH SE /EPA

Portugal’s vaccination priorities set to change as AstraZeneca roll-out resumes

With news from EMA (the European Medicines Agency) that the benefits of the Oxford/ AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh the risks, the 120,000 people in Portugal whose jabs were delayed this week will be receiving texts or phone calls recalling them for new appointments in the coming week to 10 days.

But the hiatus served to give ‘time to reconsider’ how the country will be moving forwards. 

April now looks as if ‘phase two’ of Portugal’s roll-out will not be based on people’s underlying illnesses (as initially planned) but on age. This mirrors the roll-out strategy adopted in England which has already managed to vaccinate people in their 80s, 70s, 60s and 50s and is now onto those in their 40s.

Explains Expresso, the “selection of chronic diseases during the first phase was slow, complex and at times unfair. Vaccination needs to be a great deal faster”.

The General Medical Council and task force are all for ‘changing the rules’; it’s just a matter of getting DGS health chiefs onboard, GMC president Miguel Guimarães tells the paper, stressing the “arguments for convincing (them) are clear, and the results are visible in other countries”.

“The UK and Israel are the countries with the most citizens vaccinated because, after health professionals and people over the age of 80, they vaccinated their populations according to age. It’s what we must do”, he said, explaining that by vaccinating this way, “we catch the people who are the most ill as these tend to be the oldest”.

As vaccination task force coordinator Henrique Gouveia e Melo has continually stressed, the overall plan remains to have 70% of the population immunised by the summer.

Phase Two is due to begin in April and according to the DGS website it is still directed at:

  • People over the age of 65 (who haven’t already been vaccinated)
  • People aged between 50 and 64 with one of the following pathologies: diabetes, cancer, chronic kidney disease, liver disease, high blood pressure and obesity.

Thousands of teachers who had hoped to start their vaccination process this weekend will now begin it next weekend (with the AstraZeneca vaccines released from suspension) – and according to Correio da Manhã, there are plans to bring pharmacies into the vaccination campaign from April.

Another bit of ‘positive news’ today is that nine out of every 10 Portuguese citizens is reported to be ready to take the vaccine when contacted. A study developed by FMUP (the university of Porto’s faculty of medicine) reached this conclusion from online inquiries of ‘almost 3,000 people’ which took place in December and January.

Adverse effects from vaccination reported in Portugal to March 18

Correio da Manhã has published a short column today on the number of vaccines administered up to March 18 in Portugal and how many people registered adverse effects (figures only up to March 13). There has been no description of what these adverse effects were:

Pfizer/ BioNTech: 916,504 doses – 2,498 adverse effects

Moderna: 57,443 doses – 84 adverse effects

AstraZeneca: 195,047 doses – 202 adverse effects

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com