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  • Writer's picture@ Cynthia Adina Kirkwood

Portugal: Vaccines Cut Death Rate 1 Year On

Updated: Jan 3, 2022

The only place on the mainland where it snows: the Serra da Estrela mountain range.


One year ago, Portugal administered the first vaccine against COVID-19. Vaccines have not ended the epidemic, but early figures show that they have reduced mortality and hospitalization.

The number of COVID-19 deaths on December 25, 2020, was 65 as compared with 10 on the same day this year, reported SIC Noticias (December 27). On the same day last year, there were three times as many hospitalized (2,754) as compared with 857 this year. Of those, the total in intensive care was 504 in 2020 and 152 in 2021. According to the 2021 Census, Portugal has a population of 10.3 million.

Before getting the jab, the country’s first vaccine recipient, 65-year-old Dr. Antonio Sarmento, director of the Department of Infectious Diseases at Sao Joao Hospital in Porto, said:

“Getting yourself vaccinated is a huge help to humanity. We have to have confidence. Evidently, the risk is not zero, but life is not lived with zero risk. The opposite option is to not get the vaccine and trust that you will not catch the disease and, if you do, that nothing will happen to you. The probability of (catching) it exists, and it is real.”

In October, Portugal had vaccinated completely 85 percent of the population, making it one of the most vaccinated countries in the world. As of December 24, Our World in Data reported it as having 88.1 percent fully vaccinated and 26 percent having received a booster.

How effective were vaccines at saving lives from February through October?

In fully vaccinated individuals in the 30-49 age group, there were zero deaths; in the age group 50-64, there were between 2 percent and 8 percent deaths; in the age group 65-79, there were between 4 percent and 8 percent deaths, and for those 80 and older, there were between 18 percent and 28 percent deaths, according to SIC Noticias.

One year later, Sarmento told Jornal de Noticias (December 27):

“I’m a believer in the vaccine.” He asked everyone to be committed to “the common good” even “if they are not obliged to do so” because “no one is saved alone.” A population is “as protected as it is united.”

“But vaccine and nothing else is not enough, though it is a very important way of protecting ourselves, even from this new variant, Omicron. Even if everyone received the COVID-19 vaccine, “it would not be 100 percent effective”. And “there is always a part of the population that will catch the virus”.

A strong advocate of mask-wearing, Sarmento said that the mask should only be removed “when essential”. Among other regulations, mask-wearing in enclosed spaces is mandatory again.

Self-scheduling for children became available on December 13.

On January 1, online scheduling also was available for a booster shot for those 50 and older, a booster shot coupled with a flu vaccine for those 60 and older, and a booster for those 30 and older who had a Janssen COVID-19 vaccine.

On January 2, those 60 and older were able to attend their vaccine center without an appointment in the Casa Aberta (Open House) program.

The booster shots are either Pfizer BioNTech or Moderna, according to The Portugal News (November 19).

A three-month voluntary program for vaccination of children 5 to 11 years old against COVID-19 began on the weekend of December 18, reported Correio da Manha (December 11). Nearly 1.3 million vaccines of a pediatric Pfizer vaccine will be given to more than 643,000 children.

The pediatric Pfizer vaccine consists of one-third of the adult dose, according to SIC Noticias (December 13).

From the 6th to the 9th of January, children aged 7 to 9 will take their turn. On the 15th and 16th of January, those aged 6 and 7 will get their vaccines, and on January 22nd and January 23, vaccination will be dedicated to those who are 5 years old.

From February 5th until March 13th, second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine will be administered to the children.

Portugal plans to donate another 4 million COVID-19 vaccines to Portuguese-speaking countries, bringing the total to 6 million, said Foreign Minister Augusto Santos Silver, according to EURACTIV (December 8).

“It is very important for us, while vaccinating our people, to have a cooperative program with Portuguese-speaking countries, especially those in Africa and East Timor.

“One thing is certain: while there is a region of the world where vaccination is not widespread, no other region can say it is safe.”

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