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  • @ Cynthia Adina Kirkwood

Portugal Ramps Up COVID-19 Boosters, Restrictions

Updated: Dec 1, 2021




Prime Minister Antonio Costa said that he “regretted” the increased deaths and hospitalizations.

 

As the number of new COVID-19 infections rises in its fifth wave, Portugal is seeking to accelerate its rate of booster vaccinations and is adopting new restrictions.


Mainland Portugal will return to a state of calamity on December 1, according to The PortugalNews (November 25), allowing it to enact legal measures that are “proportional to the risk”, said Prime Minister Antonio Costa. Among other regulations, mask-wearing in enclosed spaces is mandatory again.


The country “is not doing well”, said Antonio Costa, despite high levels of vaccination and being in a better situation than other European countries. He said that the worsening situation has resulted in an increase in hospitalizations and deaths, which he “regretted”.


The new coronavirus variant, Omicron, is a cause for concern but not a cause for total alarm, said INSA (Dr. Ricardo Jorge National Institute of Health) researcher, Joao Paulo Gomes, according to SIC Noticias (November 26). Virologist Pedro Simas said that it is unlikely that the variant will affect the effectiveness of the vaccines, reported SIC Noticias (November 26).


However, the Portuguese government suspended flights to and from its former colony, Mozambique, from midnight November 29, reported the Observador (November 26). Scientists in neighboring South Africa first reported the variant.


In Portugal, age eligibility for a self-scheduled online appointment for a COVID-19 vaccine booster and flu shot has been lowered to 65.


The following is the link for a vaccine appointment. For English, click on the globe on the upper right:


https://covid19.min-saude.pt/pedido-de-agendamento/#


This age group became eligible for the COVID-19 booster shot on November 18 after those in senior citizen homes, 80 and older, health workers and firefighters.


The Casa Aberta (Open House) drop-in program at vaccination centers remains operational for those 65 and older and for those 18 and older who had been vaccinated with the single-dose Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine, which has been found to provide more limited protection than was purported earlier, according to Euronews (November 24).


Some vaccination centers had closed after Portugal became one of the most vaccinated countries at 84 percent on September 29. As of November 23, the vaccination rate was 86.6 percent, according to Our World in Data.


However, the vaccination center in Coimbra opened its doors again on November 23. And in Lisbon, the newly elected municipality president, Carlos Moeda, vowed to open in December the largest vaccination center in the country, reported Euronews.


More than 900,000 COVID-19 booster shots have been administered, reported SIC Noticias (November 26). Portugal’s population is 10.3 million, according to the 2021 Census.


“We have had four major pandemic phases, and Portugal is currently in the fifth pandemic phase, so far with an impact on severity and mortality lower than the previous phases, although they deserve some special attention,” said Pedro Pinto Leite, of the Directorate-General of Health (DGS), at an assessment meeting of the pandemic at the headquarters of Infarmed (National Authority for Medicines and Health Products) in Lisbon, reported The Portugal News (November 19).


The DGS daily report showed eight more deaths and 3,205 new cases of COVID-19 on November 26, according to SIC Noticias (November 26).


Of the eight deaths, three occurred in Central Portugal; three in Lisbon and the Vale do Tejo, and two in the North. Two of the fatalities were men 70 to 79 years old, and four men and two women were older than 80.


The DGS update said that 705 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized, 14 more than the previous day. In intensive care, there were 100 patients, three fewer than the previous day.


Since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, Portugal has registered 18,393 deaths and 1,136,446 cases of COVID-19 infection, of which 50,880 were active.


DGS also indicated 1,842 recovered patients, bringing the total number to 1,067,173 in the pandemic.


Health authorities have 56,597 contacts under surveillance, a daily increase of 3,834, reported SIC Noticias.


Pedro Pinto Leite said that the age group with the highest incidence of infections is children up to 9 years old, which corresponds to a group of the unvaccinated population, reported The Portugal News (November 25). The group 20 to 29 is the second-highest followed by the group aged 30 to 39.


The government already has contracted the supply of pediatric vaccines from Pfizer for more than 600,000 children. The vaccines are scheduled to arrive on December 20. However, Prime Minister Antonio Costa stressed that the government awaits approval of vaccination of children by the Technical Vaccination Commission next week.


Antonio Costa added that the decision to vaccinate children must respect “the parents’ wishes” and result from an “informed dialogue” between parents and doctors”, according to The Portugal News.


The DGS released statistics to show the efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines which, generally, protects people from severe illness and death by comparing pre-vaccination and post-vaccination periods, according to SIC Noticias (November 25) (However, the 2021 figures do not indicate the number or percentage of those vaccinated):


18-24 October 2020 18-24 November 2021


2,579 Cases 2,487

19 Deaths 12

186 Intensive Care 88

1,286 Hospitalized 592



Dr. James Baker, Jr., a University of Michigan immunologist who writes the blog, Pandemic Pondering, commented on the new variant, Omicron, which caused global panic:


“This virus reportedly arose in an HIV-infected individual with poor immunity, which reportedly allowed the virus to stay in the body a long time and mutate. Also, initial reports on cases in other parts of the world were in unvaccinated individuals.


“This last issue highlights that the best way to prevent the development of new variants is to vaccinate EVERYONE worldwide!”



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