The opinion of this committee of experts “was given to the coordinator of the task force”Responsible for the vaccination campaign“ last week ”, emphasizes the DGS. The aim is to ensure that the vast majority of the most vulnerable and at risk of hospitalization and death from covid-19 are vaccinated, “contributing to the sustainability of the health system”.
In the second phase, which begins after the completion of the vaccination of the priority groups of the first phase, on April 11, as announced by the coordinator of the task force, this new strategy must be “adjusted in order to vaccinate the largest number of people in the shortest period of time” and taking into account “an expected increase in the doses of vaccines available”
The Order of Doctors had already proposed that vaccination should be carried out using only the age criterion and yesterday, in an interview with PÚBLICO and Rádio Renascença, the coordinator of the task force, Vice Admiral Henrique Gouveia e Melo, also defended that this criterion should be adopted when starting mass vaccination, in order to simplify and accelerate the whole process. This means that the vaccination of people between 79 and 70 years old advances first, then between 69 and 60 years old and so on.
Gouveia e Melo even warned that if we continue to vaccinate by “small groups”, we will accumulate doses in the warehouse. “It is necessary to end vaccination by groups of diseases and move towards vaccination by age. It does not make sense to keep the majority of the population waiting for all groups to be vaccinated ”, he argued. Doctors and nurses working in health centers have also been warning that the inclusion of clinical criteria is making the process more time-consuming and complicated.
The initial plan, which has not yet been officially changed and which implies a new revision of the DGS norm, defines as priority groups in the second phase, in addition to all citizens from 65 years of age, people from 50 to 64 who they suffer from at least one of the following pathologies: diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, active malignancy, liver failure and chronic kidney disease. But the plan already mentions in another paragraph that other diseases will be considered that can be “defined later, according to scientific knowledge”.
With the change in strategy, other pathologies of higher risk associated with covid-19 will be prioritized, and in this case, without age limit, in order to prevent, for example, a transplant or a person with active cancer disease with 20 or 30 years, have to wait months for vaccination.
The PUBLIC asked the DGS what will happen to diabetics and hypertensive patients between 50 and 64 years old who are in the priority group of the initial plan. DGS replied that the plan will be revised, without giving further details, arguing that the list of priorities is still under discussion. “It is being defined and still has to be approved”, since the technical committee makes recommendations that may or may not be approved afterwards, he explained. But it is likely that hypertension, considering that it affects more than 20% of the population, will not be maintained with the same priority.
In any case, the change in strategy is only possible because it is expected that Portugal will receive, during the third quarter, close to nine million doses, after having received only two million in the first quarter.
This is the second time that the technical committee has changed the criteria. At the end of January, he recommended that all elderly people be vaccinated from the age of 80 onwards in the first phase. The plan “is dynamic and adaptable to the evolution of scientific knowledge, to the availability and approval of vaccines in the European Union, and to the epidemiological evolution”, justifies the DGS.
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