More than 2,100 pharmacies have already joined the vaccination campaign against covid-19 and the flu, covering 92% of the country’s municipalities, according to the National Association of Pharmacies, adding that those over 60 will be eligible.
Vaccination against influenza and covid-19 is due to start on September 29, as part of the Autumn-Winter 2023 Seasonal Vaccination Campaign, and pharmacies will be able to administer both vaccines at the same time.
The president of the National Association of Pharmacies (ANF), Ema Paulino, told the Lusa news agency today that more than 2,100 pharmacies had already registered, but said she hoped to reach 2,200 by the deadline for publication of the official list of participating pharmacies and ensure national coverage with at least one pharmacy in every municipality in the country.
Regarding the population eligible to be vaccinated in pharmacies, Ema Paulino said that it will be citizens over the age of 60 who have not taken other vaccines for less than 14 days, as determined by a general rule of the Directorate-General for Health that promotes this spacing between administration of the covid-19 vaccine and other vaccines.
According to Ema Paulino, pharmacies are already pre-booking vaccines and people are already going to these establishments to say they want to be vaccinated.
Pharmacies are already making appointments, since the scheduling platform is already up and running, but they will only receive the vaccines the week the vaccination starts, despite the fact that there is already “a significant number of vaccines in the country, in central storage, to be able to enter this distribution circuit”, he said.
Regarding how many vaccines pharmacies will receive, the president of the ANF revealed that, taking into account the population over 60 and a range of coverage rates, it is estimated that there could be between 1.7 and 2.3 million flu vaccines and the same amount of vaccines against covid-19.
“It is estimated that for people under 60 [the number of vaccines] could be around 500,000 flu vaccines and 500,000 COVID-19 vaccines,” he said.
Ema Paulino added that the pharmacies will work in addition to the health centers, which will especially vaccinate people belonging to risk groups, which will be defined by the Directorate-General for Health, which will issue the technical guidelines for the vaccination process, the criteria and the eligible users.
“It will be a complementary effort between pharmacies and health centers to cover the entire population,” he said.
Asked about a study by the Ricardo Jorge National Health Institute (INSA) which concluded that the over-65s who chose not to be vaccinated against the flu in the 2020/2021 season cited mistrust of the vaccine and low susceptibility to the disease as reasons, Ema Paulino said that, in this case, “pharmacists must also assume their responsibility in contacting these people”.
“These are usually people who have chronic illnesses and therefore go to pharmacies to access the medication they need and the pharmacist should proactively suggest vaccination and clear up any doubts the person has and even combat this vaccine hesitation,” he said, stressing that it is “very important to send the message that vaccination is fundamental for risk groups”, identified by the Directorate-General for Health, and the proven effectiveness of vaccines in reducing the risk of infection and, above all, the risk of complications.
“Although we are at a different stage in terms of the Covid pandemic, the reality is that we have seen an increase in the incidence of cases in our country and in other countries. And so the maxim that prevention is better than cure is very important in this case,” said Ema Paulino.