The coordinator of the ‘task-force’ created by the Government to manage the vaccination plan against covid-19, Francisco Ramos, replied today in parliament that it would be “a huge mistake” to make the vaccine mandatory for the Portuguese population.
“This vaccination is voluntary and I think it would be a huge mistake to make it mandatory. We have 40 years of experience in the vaccination plan, which is a crown jewel of the National Health Service, ”he said, relativizing the estimates of people who do not want to be vaccinated:“ Whoever refuses to receive the vaccine must be respected. The reports say that less than 10% of the population refuses to take the vaccine and these numbers are encouraging ”.
Heard at a joint hearing by the Health Commission and the Eventual Committee to monitor the implementation of measures to respond to the pandemic, the head of the task force stressed that “trust is essential” in this process and that there must be “clarity and ease of communication ”.
“We have to win people’s confidence to adhere to the vaccination process. If we don’t win it, vaccines will serve little purpose. We must be able to manage the uncertainty, ensuring that the vaccine is safe, that the Portuguese should adhere to it and that the plan is being prepared with great caution ”, he noted, devaluing the concern that may exist with allergic reactions for that being“ a common issue ”in vaccine administration.
As such, Francisco Ramos anticipated a communication campaign in which, in addition to local contacts, the creation of “a completely dedicated ‘website’ where people can find all the information” and “two telephone contact lines, in which the infrastructure will be supported by the SNS24 ”, with professionals able to answer questions, and the possibility of scheduling vaccines is still open.
Despite recognizing a “reduction of about 20% in vaccines” by Pfizer in the first quarter of 2021 for “a failure by the company in this matter” at European level, the coordinator of the task force, guaranteed the readiness of the NHS.
“Even if this distribution occurs on Christmas Day, we will have people qualified to receive vaccines on the spot. We are available to start vaccinating as soon as the vaccines arrive, it would be intolerable to have vaccines in Portugal and not use them right away. The worst that could happen would be to set fixed dates for a person to be vaccinated in a day at X hours and then not vaccinate ”, he noted.
Faced with the capacity for an eventual anticipation of the vaccine administration until the end of December and not only in January, Francisco Ramos was not concerned, preferring to highlight the “very high hope” that this step means in combating the pandemic caused by the new coronavirus.
“The less time we have to prepare this process, the better, because it means that vaccines will arrive earlier,” he said.
For the first phase of the vaccination plan, scheduled between January and March 2021, vaccination points were defined taking into account the priority groups in accessing the vaccine: people over 50 with associated pathologies, residents and workers in homes , and essential health and service professionals.
For this reason, the vaccine will be administered in the approximately 1,200 vaccination points usual in health centers, in homes and long-term care units and within the scope of occupational medicine for professionals in essential services.
Portugal accounts for at least 5,733 deaths associated with covid-19 in 353,576 confirmed cases of infection, according to the latest bulletin from the Directorate-General for Health (DGS).