Vaccination, Vaccination, Vaccination!

Insights about the Covid-19 vaccination plan in Portugal

As we all know by now, the COVID-19 vaccination program will be handled exclusively by the Portuguese National Health Service, with distribution and administration strictly supervised by the Portuguese government. Therefore, the private health sector will not be allowed to stock, supply, or administer the vaccine.

Many of our clients living here in Portugal who have always used the private healthcare system are rightly confused about how, where and when they can receive this much-needed vaccine! This pandemic is “new” to us all, especially the healthcare sector which has had to make constant changes in procedures as we learn more and more about this very easily transmitted virus, therefore leading to a limitless updating of information.

Here in Portugal, the vaccination program has barely started. As such, we have only recently been able to collect enough information to furnish non-nationals with the knowledge they require to apply for the vaccine.

The first risk groups to be vaccinated were public health, front line, medical staff (not private, we are still waiting!) and care home residents. Currently, Phase 1 of the vaccination program is getting underway and the criteria for this is:

– People aged 80 and over

– People aged ≥50, with at least one of the following pathologies:

    • Heart failure
    • Coronary heart disease
    • Renal failure (Glomerular filtration rate < 60ml / min)
    • Chronic Obstructive Respiratory Disease (COPD) under ventilatory support and/or long-term oxygen therapy

The most important point is that all persons wishing to obtain a vaccine against COVID-19 must be registered with their local Health Centre, even if they do not receive healthcare from them. You will need to obtain a patient number (Numero de Utente) and be added to the program.

To apply for this, you need a residency certificate, fiscal number and social security number. If you are working, you have this automatically, if not or you are retired, check with either the social security office near you or your own government on what is required.

Those who are over 80 years of age are only required to be registered with their local Health Centre as the communication of medical information from the private to the public health sector is not necessary.

Those who are aged 50 to 79 with at least one of the Phase 1 risk criteria and already treated by a doctor at their Health Centre must wait to be contacted by the health service to schedule the vaccination. If treated by the private health sector, they must make an appointment with their own doctor, especially if they have not seen them for a while so that a current medical history can be taken.

According to a communication from the Serviço Nacional de Saúde, the attending private sector physician must complete an electronic declaration for each individual, entering the correct medical information on an information-sharing computer platform (PEM – Electronic Medical Prescription). At this time, doctors are only authorised to introduce the clients who come under Phase 1 criteria onto the PEM.

During the consultation, the doctor will collect updated medical information to complete the electronic declaration confirming that a client belongs to the risk groups of Phase 1. The electronic declaration can be completed at the time of consultation or later if the computer system does not allow it. A message will then be sent automatically to the client by the PEM system, confirming the electronic declaration has been issued.

From this point, the client must wait to be contacted by the authorities to schedule the vaccination. To date we still do not have concrete information on what the procedures will be for Phase 2 and 3. But we are aware that Phase 1 is expected to be completed by April although this estimate obviously relies on many factors, such as the supply chain for vaccines.

Remember this vaccination program is going to take a long time to reach effectiveness countrywide and until then we will have to heavily rely on the government measures for our safety; wearing masks, social distancing and disinfection.

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