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  • @ Cynthia Adina Kirkwood

Vaccines: Let's Not Give Up On Each Other

Updated: Jul 20


In response to a recent piece of mine on COVID-19, an English immigrant thanked me for telling her how to get a vaccine in Portugal, while a Belgian said that, in three years, the vaccinated will have died leaving the country empty.


The first comment gratified me because I write to inform people. When I read the second, I thought: How dark! Does she really believe that COVID-19 vaccines kill people?


Each camp – for or against the vaccine -- is ardent and arrogant. Each camp believes in its own righteousness. With these hardened mindsets, it is hard to open up to another way of seeing, and it is difficult to listen to each other.


Yet, we must show respect for each other.


We must not give up on each other because we are all we have.


The highly transmissible Delta variant is driving up infection and hospitalization rates in Portugal and around the world. The Dr. Ricardo Jorge Institute of Health reported that the variant, first detected in India, was 86.6 percent dominant in Portugal, according to RTP (July 14). Portugal has ramped up its vaccine rollout. Our World in Data reported that 46.1 percent of the country had been fully vaccinated as of July 18.


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


In Europe, during the pandemic, demonstrations against the loss of individual liberties to the state have not been uncommon. “Sheep” is hurled at some as a criticism of behavior. However, it does seem that the issue of freedom has become entangled with vaccines, and they are two separate things.


Fear also is raised as an issue, something that people want to keep out of their lives. Yet, it is panic that we need to exorcise from our minds and spirits. Panic leads to irrational thoughts and decisions. Fear is a survival instinct.


It is time for fear.


COVID-19 vaccines do not kill people. They save lives. Vaccines stop the virus. Not all vaccines are the same, but all will reduce serious illness and death.


“The vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna reduce the risk of symptomatic infections by more than 90 percent . . . Better still, the available vaccines slash the odds that infected people will spread the virus onward by at least half and likely more. In the rare cases that the virus breaks through, infections are generally milder, shorter, and lower in viral load,” reported The Atlantic (July 1).


James R. Baker, Jr. MD, a respected immunologist in Michigan, writes in his blog, Pandemic Pondering (July 16):


“No vaccine is perfect, and (a much-touted) Israeli article showed that (as expected) less than 5% of individuals who were properly immunized got clinically infected with COVID-19. Of those, 40% had serious immune problems that may have prevented the vaccine from working. This is what is expected and represents true ‘breakthrough infections.’ The vaccine is still remarkably effective, and most of these folks did not get seriously ill or die.”


In today’s digital world, each person has to be his, her or their own journalist. So, be skeptical . . . of everyone. Consider the source. Corroborate your findings with at least two other authoritative sources. And work with love, not anger.


Keep the faith.


The Atlantic wrote:


“The WHO’s decision to name variants after the Greek alphabet means that at some point, we’ll probably be dealing with an Omega variant. Our decisions now will determine whether that sinister name is accompanied by equally sinister properties, or whether Omega will be just an unremarkable scene during the pandemic’s closing act.”


For those 23 and older, the following is the link for a vaccine appointment. For English, click on the globe on the upper right:


https://covid19.min-saude.pt/


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.


If you are 35 and older and have not had your first vaccine or you are that age and were infected with COVID-19 at least six months ago, you may visit your registered health center’s vaccine post without an appointment in a “Casa Aberta” (“Open House”) effort, according to Renasçença (July 19).


Casa Aberta had been suspended for a few days due to a batch, now under investigation, which caused an unspecified number of faintings in Mafra. The program was scheduled to return on July 19 but will offer only Janssen vaccines within 15 days, reported Renasçença (July 16). Vice Admiral Gouveia e Melo said that “the other vaccines that we have in smaller stock at this stage are reserved for traditional appointments, online appointments and local scheduling,” according to Renasçença (July 19).


In Portugal, the Janssen 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.


There are four vaccines administered in Portugal. They are two-dose inoculations, except for the one-dose Janssen. Also, Janssen is an adenovirus-based jab as is the Oxford/AstraZeneca (now called Vaxzevria) vaccine. The AstraZeneca vaccine is not recommended for those 60 and younger.


The other vaccines are Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna, which are both messenger RNA vaccines.






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