Vaccination task force coordinator, Vice-Admiral Henrique de Gouveia e Melo, hands over a symbolic military patch to a youngster before he gets his vaccine at the Odivelas Vaccination Centre last weekend Photo: MIGUEL A. LOPES/LUSA

Portugal’s vaccinations ‘hero’ vice-admiral Gouveia e Melo voted ‘Personality of the Year’

Portugal’s former vaccinations czar vice-admiral Henrique Gouveia e Melo has today been voted Personality of the Year by the Association of Foreign Press in Portugal (AIEP).

In a statement, the association explains the accolade seeks to “distinguish a person or institution that has most contributed to promoting the image of Portugal abroad during the year”.

As such, there was no other choice than the towering character who donned camouflage fatigues at the start of  his tenure and steered the country to ‘world dominance’ in terms of populational vaccine coverage.

Said AIEP president Guiliana Miranda, “the success of Portugal’s vaccine strategy was news throughout the world. Our correspondents dedicated a lot of reports to  the subject which raised enormous interest abroad”.

Indeed, journalists who voted for Gouveia e Melo have equally applauded the entire task force for succeeding in getting 89% of the population immunised before the autumn.

Reacting to this latest recognition, the vice-admiral who became a hot commodity following his success (click here) said with customary humility: “I thank you for this award which represents a national effort in which everyone contributed”.

The “Personality of the Year” award has been attributed by AIEP, which brings together 54 international journalists from almost 20 countries, since 1990.

Former years have seen awards going to pianist Maria João Pires, writer José Saramago, fado singer Mariza, footbal champion Cristiano Ronaldo, as well as politicians (Mário Soares) and other dignitaries (for example UN secretary general António Guterres). 

Since 2012 the prize has been denominated “Personality of the Year – Martha de la Cal” in memory of the US journalist who worked in Portugal for many years for Time magazine, and who was one of AIEP’s founders.