The Coordinator of the Covid-19 Vaccination Task Force ordered the Lisbon and Vale do Tejo (LVT) Regional Health Administration (ARS) to call the elderly aged 80 and over and the most vulnerable patients aged 50 or over using the years Age criterion, similar to what has been done since the beginning in the other four ARS in the country. The regional health administration of Lisbon and the Tajo Valley was the only one in the country where the vaccination call was made automatically and randomly, the PUBLIC reported.
“ACES [agrupamentos de centros de saúde] from the Lisbon and Vale do Tejo region call the two priority user groups in descending order of age, according to the most recent guidelines from the Task Force Coordinator, ”explains the LVT ARS, stating that the“ change in procedures took place a long time ago about 15 days ”.
Older people over 80 and people over 50, as well as pathologies associated with a higher risk of morbidity and mortality in the case of Covid-19, began vaccination at the end of January, initially in pilot projects that were gradually expanded to all health centers. The General Directorate Health (DGS) has not specified any type of prioritization in the vaccination standard, so that the organization of the process is at the discretion of the regional health authorities. In the North, Center, Alentejo and Algarve, it was decided from the start that the call should be in descending order of age, but in Lisbon and Vale do Tejo the choice was made automatically and randomly.
Maria Silva, 99 years old, without a vaccine
The situation was changed two weeks ago, but in light of a complaint sent to the PUBLIC, there will still be some problems in operationalizing this change. Proof of this is 99-year-old Maria Silva, who is enrolled in a department of the health center in Sete Rios and had not yet been asked for the first dose of the vaccine as of Friday. This week, after learning that an 84-year-old patient enrolled at the same health center had already been vaccinated, her daughter Teresa Silva decided to protest in the unit’s complaint book.
He then complained to the Deposit Insurance Scheme, the Health Inspectorate and the Ombudsman. The DGS replied that it was up to the ARS to “assign the authorized persons” and that the ACES had to organize the planning and the call “depending on the installed capacity”.
“My mother, who suffers from Alzheimer’s and ulcerative colitis, must be one of the oldest people enrolled at the Sete Rios Health Center,” emphasizes Teresa Silva, for “the lack of a specific criterion for choosing” people to be vaccinated should “. represents an obvious situation of unequal treatment and discrimination between users of the same age who are registered in the regional health administrations of Lisbon and Vale do Tejo as well as in the rest of the country.”
The Executive Directorate of the Grouping of Health Centers of Lisbon North stated in response to the PUBLIC that, since the change in procedures, the Sete Rios Health Center only administered the first doses of the vaccines to users 80 years of age or older last weekend, taking into account the availability of those that can be applied to this age group [as da Pfizer e as da Moderna, uma vez que as da AstraZeneca não estão recomendadas para maiores de 65 anos em Portugal]”. And he guaranteed: “As soon as more vaccines are available that can be given to this age group – probably next week – the Sete Rios health center will resume vaccination of users aged 80 and over in descending order of age”.
“There are weeks of delays from the decision-making process to the execution on the spot,” complains Teresa Silva, who is very concerned about the situation as her mother is accompanied by a team of supervisors who use public transport. “Every day that goes by there is a great risk of getting Covid-19.”
This Friday, Portugal crossed the threshold of one million vaccines against Covid-19 given to groups that were identified as priority in the first phase of the operation. Of this total, 716 thousand were first cans and 284 thousand were second. The main goal is to be able to vaccinate 80% of the population aged 80 and over by the end of this month, as recommended by the European Commission. Due to the vaccine shortage, the task force coordinator has already assumed that the first phase will not end in the first quarter and will extend through April.