The list of priorities for the second phase of the vaccination plan against Covid-19 will be changed if the proposal of the Committee of Experts of the Directorate-General for Health (DGS) is approved. The idea is to start vaccinating by age, using the criterion of reducing age groups, but at the same time including people with diseases associated with an increased risk of Covid-19 with severity and no age limit. A new “two-legged strategy that will run in parallel,” DGS said yesterday.
In the case of Covid-19, diseases with an increased risk that should be prioritized without an age limit, including younger people, are “less common” than those provided for in the original plan, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, explains the DGS. It should be noted that this “adaptation” is still being worked on by the Technical Vaccination Commission, which includes specialists from various fields who analyze the data and the emerging scientific findings and make recommendations.
The opinion of this committee of experts “was sent to the task force coordinator responsible for the vaccination campaign“ last week ”,” emphasizes the deposit guarantee system. The aim is to ensure that the vast majority of the most vulnerable people at risk of hospitalization and death from Covid-19 are vaccinated, which “contributes to the sustainability of the health system”.
In the second phase, starting on April 11th after the completion of the vaccination of the priority groups of the first phase, as announced by the Task Force Coordinator, this new strategy needs to be “adapted to vaccinate the greatest number of people in the shortest possible time” and taking into account “an expected increase in the available vaccine doses”
The Order of Doctors had already suggested that vaccination should only be carried out according to the age criterion, and yesterday the coordinator of the Task Force, Vice Admiral Henrique Gouveia e Melo, also defended the adoption of this criterion in an interview with PÚBLICO and Rádio Renascença at the beginning of the mass vaccination, to simplify and speed up the whole process.
Gouveia e Melo even warned that if we continue to vaccinate from “small groups” we will accumulate doses in the camp. “It is necessary to stop vaccinating through groups of diseases and switch to vaccination according to age. It doesn’t make sense for the majority of the population to wait for all groups to be vaccinated, ”he argued.
Doctors and nurses who work in health centers have also warned that including clinical criteria makes the process more time-consuming and complicated.
The original plan, which has not yet been officially changed and implies a new revision of the DGS standard, defines in the second phase as priority groups in addition to all citizens over 65 years of age as well as people between 50 and 64 years of age who suffer from at least one of the following pathologies: Diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, active malignancy, and chronic kidney disease. However, the plan already mentions in another paragraph that other diseases will be taken into account, which “according to scientific knowledge can later be defined”.
With the change in strategy, other higher-risk pathologies associated with Covid-19 will be prioritized, and in this case with no age limit, for example to prevent a transplant or a person with active cancer at 20 or 30 years old, months will have to wait for vaccination.
The PUBLIC asked the DGS what will happen to diabetic and hypertensive patients between the ages of 50 and 64 who are in the priority group of the original plan. DGS replied that the plan was being revised without further details, arguing that the priority list was still being discussed. “It is being defined and has yet to be approved,” he explained as the technical committee makes recommendations that may or may not be approved later. However, considering that it affects more than 20% of the population, it is likely that high blood pressure will not be maintained with the same priority.
Either way, a change in strategy is only possible because Portugal is expected to receive nearly nine million cans in the third quarter after receiving just two million in the first quarter.
This is the second time the technical committee has changed the criteria. At the end of January, he recommended vaccinating all older people aged 80 and over in the first phase. The plan “is dynamic and adaptable to the development of scientific knowledge, to the availability and approval of vaccines in the European Union as well as to epidemiological developments”, justifies the DGS.