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  • Writer's picture@ Cynthia Adina Kirkwood

Portugal’s Urgent Race: Vaccine vs. Virus

Updated: Jul 14, 2021

In the spring, the youngest returned to school first


The highly transmissible Delta variant has pushed Portugal onto the fourth wave of COVID-19. Yet, vaccines are the new redeeming factor that the country did not have when ambulances queued at hospitals in the third wave.

Of 2.5 million people completely vaccinated, 52 have been hospitalized, according to the Directorate General of Health (DGS) (July 4).

Only 52.

Of 2.5 million people completely vaccinated, 2,357 have been infected, or 0.09 percent.

Only 0.09 percent.

Portugal’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout is running a race against time, said Vice Admiral Henrique Gouveia e Melo, the vaccine task force coordinator.

“The next two weeks will be decisive,” said Gouveia e Melo on SIC Noticias (July 4).

Microbiologist Joao Paulo Gomes, a specialist at the Doctor Ricardo Jorge National Institute of Health (INSA), estimated that within two to three weeks the Delta variant will be predominant (from 80 percent to 90 percent) on mainland Portugal, according to Publico (June 29).

Portugal had the second-highest number in Europe of new COVID-19 cases per 100,000 in the 14 days up to July 1, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. Portugal had 169 per 100,000. The United Kingdom had 39 per 100,000. Romania had the lowest at 5 per 100,000.

Gouveia e Melo expects the rate of vaccination to increase to more than 120,000 vaccines per day for a weekly total of 840,000, according to Negocios (July 3).

“We are in a war against the virus, and we are going to give as much as we can to advance the vaccination process, taking it to the limit,” said Gouveia e Melo. “We are using all our scheduling methods, online, central, local, and through the Open House (Casa Aberta) system.”

In June, there was a daily average of 1,604 cases of infection, a figure three times higher than that observed on June 1, but it was still only one-third of the 30-day mark in the second wave in November 2020 (3,547 daily cases), according to Publico (July 4). In the seven days through July 3, the daily average rose to 2,077.

“If we look at deaths, the increase is even less noticeable: from a seven-day average of 0.6 deaths a day on June 1, the country rose to four daily deaths in the seven days through July 4 (and on Saturday, there was no record of any death),” according to Publico.

Gouveia e Melo said that the acceleration of vaccinations could cause increased waiting times, reported Negocios.

“There may be some undesirable queues. The process will not be as fast as desirable, and I apologize to users who have to wait an hour or half an hour in a queue. But it is the bargaining chip between the quality of the process and the pace of vaccination and urgency.

“At this stage, we must stress urgency.

“We believe that the population understands and supports the need to advance the pace as much as we can. There is an extraordinary effort by all health professionals involved to make the process as smooth as possible.”

Seventy percent of the population will have one COVID-19 vaccine dose between August 8 and August 15, said Gouveia e Melo on SIC Noticias (July 4). By the third week of September, 70 percent will be completely vaccinated with two doses.

A total of 37.2 percent has been vaccinated completely, according to Our World in Data (July 5).

More than 95 percent of those 60 and older have been vaccinated completely, according to the vaccination task force (July 3). For ages 50 to 59, 85 percent have completed the vaccination process. For ages 40 to 49, 68 percent have done so. And for ages 30 to 39, 28 percent have completed the process.

“Gouveia e Melo deserves only praise for his coordination. He speaks well and in a way that everyone understands,” said Luis Marques Mendes on SIC Noticias (July 4), where he is a regular commentator.

If you are 45 and older and you have not yet had your first vaccine, you may visit your registered health center’s vaccine post without an appointment in a “Casa Aberta” (“Open House”) effort, according to RTP (July 3).

As of July 4, those 18 and older were scheduled to be able to make an online appointment for a COVID-19 vaccine, according to SIC Noticias (July 4). However, as of the night of July 5, the age had been lowered from 30 to 27.

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

Date of birth, fiscal number, and patient (utente) number are requested on the Directorate of Health (DGS) form. If you do not have a patient number, it asks for the identification number of your citizens’ card or passport.

After choosing a location from a dropdown menu, an appointment day is issued online immediately. An SMS follows with a confirmed time.

Currently, Pfizer BioNTech, Johnson & Johnson (Janssen), Moderna and Oxford AstraZeneca (now called Vaxzevria) vaccines are being administered in Portugal. They are the vaccines approved by the European Medicines Agency.

However, in Portugal, the AstraZeneca vaccine is not recommended for those 60 and younger. Also, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is not recommended for women 50 years and younger, according to SIC Noticias (June 9). There are no restrictions for men 18 and older.

The vaccines are two doses, except for Johnson & Johnson, which is one dose.

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