Portugal’s vaccination programme starts Sunday: poll shows only 50% of population willing to take it up

In line with the rest of Europe, Portugal’s vaccination programme against Covid-19 starts on Sunday (December 27).

More than 950,000 seniors will start being ‘invited’ by telephone to come to health centres for their two-shot dose of protection, while the first to actually receive the jabs will be health professionals in Lisbon,Porto and Coimbra.

Health minister Marta Temido made the announcement yesterday, detailing the university hospital centres of Porto, São João, Coimbra, Lisbon North and Lisbon Central,

“We chose these five structures because they represent the SNS network of reference, the institutions designated as the front line”.

The country’s first phase of vaccinations will concentrate on the elderly in old people’s homes as well as healthcare workers.

Explain reports, data shows there are roughly 1.1 million ‘seniors’ (over the age of 75) in Portugal, of which only 12% are in old people’s homes (whether ‘legal’ or unlicensed).

This 12% is already ‘on the list’ for initial vaccines, and will not therefore need to be contacted by telephone.

The reason for the telephone contact is not simply to book the necessary appointment, but to ask citizens if they want the vaccine.

Surprising as it may appear, a recent poll has shown that 50% of the general population is reticent’ (see below).

Say reports, in the case of ‘telephone contacts’ to people who may not being able to get to a telephone, the vaccination task force says teams of SNS workers will be ‘following up’ non-response with home visits.

For now, we’re talking about just 9,750 doses of the Pfizer vaccine due to arrive ‘in the next few days’.

Then, by January 5 (the original moment chosen to start the mass-initiative), another 303,225 doses are scheduled to have arrived. These will be used on ‘all the other healthcare workers’ (roughly 21,000), workers in old people’s homes (another 118,000) and the elderly residents themselves.

“Old people’s homes are the first group that will have total protection – by the middle of February – according to the estimates of the task force”, writes tabloid Correio da Manhã today.

Remaining seniors scheduled for this first phase of vaccinations are those with at least one other ‘associated pathology’ (ie health issue).

Says CM, the task force is still working out which old people’s homes to vaccinate first, while health authorities are identifying all workers in line for the vaccine.

Again, workers are being asked first if they actually want to take the vaccine. Says vaccine coordinator Francisco Ramos it is ‘very important’ that people are given freedom of choice and that their choice is respected.

“Only half population wants to take the vaccine”

Early this month, Público suggested confidence among Portuguese in the safety and efficacy of the vaccine was rising. Up to a third of the population was willing to take it, said the paper.

A new poll, conducted for Correio da Manhã, suggests this has indeed increased to roughly half the population.

But that suggests five million people would still be ‘sceptical’. Some have said a categoric ‘no’, others are ‘not sure’.

Says CM, it’s the people in the Algarve who ‘least trust the vaccine’.

Thus, for the time being, 49.3% of people quizzed by pollsters Intercampos say they would be willing to take the shots when they are offered; 24.7% ‘ guarantee they have no intention of taking them’ and 26% ‘don’t know’.

Women are described as “the most reticent” – and age does appear to have an  influence on the answers: over-55s being much more inclined to take the vaccine (as many as 53%).

But the Algarve turned the poll a little on its head by seeing more than half the Portuguese resident in the region (53.8%) saying they would not be lining up for the shots under any circumstances.

The north of the country (where the virus has been most prevalent and cited as cause of death for almost 195,000 people) 53.5% of those quizzed said they definitely wanted the vaccine when their time for it comes.

On the question of whether people agreed with the vaccine being voluntary, the overriding majority said yes it should be (59.9%). Those that thought otherwise amounted to 30.1%, while 10% ‘didn’t have an opinion’.

The poll seems to be in line with the hopes of the vaccine task force which has suggested between 50% and 70% of the population could be immunised against Covid-19 by the end of the Spring (click here).

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