COVID Vaccination in Portugal Expected to Start Between Dec. 27 and 29, But Vaccination Schedule Delayed

Portugal’s vaccination chief Francisco Ramos says the country’s health system can start vaccinations the same day as they arrive in the country.

Portugal’s national health system is ready to start vaccinating the population against COVID-19 within hours of the vaccines’ arrival in the country, which is expected on Christmas Eve. Update Dec. 19: It’s now expected between Dec. 27 and 29. However, the previously announced phased vaccination period will now be delayed.

The head of the government task force for the vaccination, Francisco Ramos, told a parliamentary committee on Wednesday that Portugal has 1,200 health centers (centros de saúde) around the country ready to start administering the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, which are expected to arrive three days after EU regulators approve it, according to Reuters. The approval is scheduled for Dec. 21, the newswire writes, citing Ramos. 

Illustration by Valdemar Doria

“It’s 11h30,” Ramos told the Parliament on Wednesday morning. “If, by some magic trick, vaccines arrived at 11:45 am, I want to guarantee that in the afternoon we would be able to administer vaccines at any health center in Portugal.”

Related: Portugal Guarantees Enough Covid-19 Vaccines for Its Entire Population — for Free

Last week, Ramos said that the health centers can vaccinate 50,000 people every day without compromising normal operations of the centers, according to Público

At the parliamentary hearing on Wednesady, Ramos also said that studies show that only 10% of Portuguese don’t want to get vaccinated, according to Reuters. 

Indeed, a study conducted by the Centro de Estudos e Sondagens de Opinião da Universidade Católica (Catholic University Studies and Opinion Polls Center) found that only 8% of Portuguese don’t want the vaccine, according to Público

However, a further 24% say they want to wait some time — or a long time — to take their turn, the study found. Nonetheless, 61% of Portuguese are ready to get vaccinated as soon as they’re called, CESPO found. 

But wait they most likely will: Ramos told the Portuguese parliament that some “bad news” — the announcement that Pfizer-BioNTech is reducing vaccine production capacity by 20% for the first quarter of 2021 — means that the original vaccination schedule will have to be pushed back, according to Público.

Related: Portugal’s Three-Phase National Covid-19 Vaccination Plan Begins in January: What to Expect

The original plan, outlined by the Portuguese government in early December, envisioned a three-phase vaccination initiative, starting with people over 50 with certain health conditions, residents and employees in long-term care facilities, healthcare workers treating COVID patients and armed forces members involved in essential services. 

That phase of vaccination, originally scheduled to be concluded by February, will now likely stretch into Mach or even April, Ramos said, according to Público.

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