Gustavo Tato Borges stresses that the priority must be to ensure the focus and pace of the current vaccination process, in order to ensure that the entire population receives both doses.
The elderly, one of the groups with a high incidence of infections, should receive the third dose against covid-19 in October and November, simultaneously with the flu vaccine, defended today the National Association of Public Health Physicians (ANMSP).
“The National Health Service (SNS) is prepared to vaccinate the most vulnerable to the flu every year. If we have this possibility, it is add at the same height the vaccination of covid-19. Taking advantage of this opportunity, we protect from two diseases and this is something that is essential for the General Directorate of Health and the NHS to organize so that, in winter, this problem does not exist”, the acting president of the ANMSP told Lusa.
The elderly are among the age groups that have a rise in incidence of new SARS-CoV2 infections, although, according to the latest DGS report, about 97% of people aged 65 and over have full vaccination against covid-19.
The latest report of the pandemic “red lines” alerts to the “probable upward trend” of epidemic activity in the group over 65 years old, advancing that the age group of the elderly aged 80 and over “has a cumulative incidence at 14 days of 149 cases per 100,000 inhabitants”.
“This value of 149 is not exactly a high incidence that makes all the alarms sound, but it is something that we must pay attention and it must be evaluated by the tutelage in order to understand what failed here”, he added Gustavo Tato Borges.
According to the public health doctor, one of the causes for this incidence of infections in the elderly, the group with the highest rate of complete vaccination in the country, is related to the Delta variant, predominant in Portugal and considered more transferable than Alpha.
“The fact that the Delta variant is circulating is clearly one of the causes of this incidence, not least because the vaccines that are in use were not created with this variant in mind, because it didn’t exist at the time”, recalled the acting president of the ANMSP.
According to the expert, the question may also be people “very vulnerable with a very high risk of dying and who, even with a well-administered vaccination, may not have been enough to guarantee immunity”.
In addition to these reasons, Gustavo Tato Borges admits that the number of infections among vaccinated elderly people may be related “with a small relaxation on protection and containment measures” in a family context, through contacts with non-immunized people. “There is all this behavioral variant that can also help to explain why the elderly are being a group affected by the pandemic”, said the doctor.
According to Gustavo Tato Borges, it is necessary for health authorities to understand if the incidence in this age group is due to a behavioral issue or to a reduced immune response, bearing in mind that the elderly were the first to be vaccinated in Portugal. “It was important for the DGS, the Ministry of Health and Social Solidarity to come together to understand what is happening here”, he defended.
Asked whether this incidence makes a third dose of the vaccine urgent, Gustavo Tato Borges considered that “fundamental, at this time, is to ensure that 85% of people are fully vaccinated” in the country.
“We need to keep this focus and this pace of vaccination in those who have not yet been vaccinated. But we must also realize that the most vulnerable will most likely need a third dose before the winter season.”