Portugal: vaccinations delayed

First phase extended by two months

COVID vaccinations

Reuters report that the first phase of Portugal’s vaccination plan against COVID-19 will be extended by around two months into April, the programme leader Francisco Ramos said on Thursday, as delivery delays mean the country will receive just half the expected doses by March.

The press agency reports that infections and deaths in Portugal have spiked to record levels after Christmas. The country was initially hoping to receive close to 3 million vaccine doses in the first quarter, but this figure has fallen to just 1.5 million due to delivery delays, vaccination taskforce head said.

He had said in December the original plan envisaged 950,000 people – health professionals, key workers, people over 50 with pre-existing conditions and key political figures – being fully vaccinated in January and February. Now, with the new constraints, only 810,000 people should be fully vaccinated by the end March whilst 520,000 will receive a first dose.

“The first phase will now last until April,” Ramos said, adding over-80s would now also be included in this phase.

“This will certainly not be the last change in the (vaccination) plan … due to the uncertainty the availability of vaccines imposes on us”.

Vaccination programme leader Francisco Ramos

A total of just 74,000 people, including care home residents and staff, have been fully inoculated in Portugal so far, all with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, Ramos said. He said if the shot produced by AstraZeneca was approved by Brussels, Portugal could receive another 2.2 million doses by end of March and reach its revised goal.

AstraZeneca said last week it would reduce EU supplies in the first quarter due to production issues, and Pfizer warned of a temporary slowdown in shipments to the European Union in late January caused by changes to manufacturing processes, angering EU officials.

After criticism from lawmakers over politicians being included in the first phase of vaccination, the government said on Wednesday each state institution – from parliament to the courts – should say which workers it considers essential and in need of a vaccine.

Portugal: vaccinations delayed 1

Maurice kindly sent in a link to the Portugal Resident a couple of days ago, reporting that “It has been another dismal day in Portugal’s agonising battle against Covid-19” – full report here. Alarmingly, the Algarve is showing high numbers of new infections, no doubt causing alarm among the large UK ex-pat population living there. There are reports of hospitals running out of oxygen and closing to new admissions.

The same newspaper reports that “One ‘shaft of light’ on the travel front is that Portugal has finally taken the initiative to shut down flights with Brazil, where reporters on the ground have described scenes in some cities as ‘like the Middle Ages during the plague’”.

COVID-19 in Madeira: daily updates can be found on an earlier post.

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