The task force's list of tasks included defining the logistical operation (storage and distribution of the different vaccines), the vaccination strategy (identification of priority target groups, administration and clinical follow-up of results and adverse reactions) and a communication plan with the population.

The entire vaccination plan is not yet known, but the criteria for the first of the three planned phases have already been defined.

These are some essential points on the subject:

Universal, free and optional vaccine

The vaccine against Covid-19, due to arrive in Portugal as early as January, will be universal, free and optional, and made available to the population according to the characteristics approved by the European Medicines Agency.

Portugal to buy 22 million doses

According to the Health Minister, Portugal will buy more than 22 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines under agreements between six pharmaceuticals and the European Union at a cost of €200 million.

For the time being, 6.9 million doses are guaranteed from Astrazeneca's candidate, 4.5 million from Johnson & Johnson's, 1.8 million from Moderna and 4.5 million from Pfizer/BioNTech, which should be the first to arrive in the first days of 2021.

Three-stage vaccination next year

Three stages are planned for the implementation of the Covid-19 vaccination plan in 2021 which will keep pace with the pace of vaccine availability and it is expected that in the first months there will still be some shortages.

Therefore, in the first phase, which should take place between January and March, or April in the worst case scenario, they will only have access to the vaccine up to 950 thousand priority people.

For the second phase, the document foresees a broadening of the criteria for defining these priority groups and, therefore, the vaccine could reach an additional 2.7 million people.

Only in a third phase will the entire population have access to the vaccine, but the task force coordinator noted during the presentation of the document that this will only be possible if the pace of vaccine supply is confirmed, otherwise other groups may be created.

Who gets the vaccine first?

The first priority groups are people over 50 with associated pathologies, residents and workers in nursing and care homes, and health and essential services professionals (armed forces, security forces and critical services), representing 950,000 people in total.

By group, there are 250,000 in homes and continuous care units, 400,000 over 50 years old with associated comorbidities and 300,000 professionals.

In the second phase, that is, from March or April to June or July, 1.8 million people over 65 years of age and about 900,000 with associated pathologies and over 50 years of age will be vaccinated.

Vaccines administered in homes and health centres

The first stage of vaccination against Covid-19 will be administered at the approximately 1,200 usual vaccination points in health centres, nursing homes and long-term care units.

The health centres will be aimed at 400,000 people over 50 years of age and with associated comorbidities, while nursing home users and professionals will be vaccinated there by resident nursing teams.

The vaccine will also be given to health professionals and essential services in occupational medicine.

For the remaining phases, the plan foresees the expansion of the vaccination point network, with criteria to be defined according to the schedule and pace of vaccine supply.

How to access the vaccine?

The working group coordinated by Francisco Ramos wants the vaccination plan to be partly marked by proactive health services.

It is therefore planned to set up a "call system" for the marking of vaccination, so that the health services themselves identify the people belonging to the priority risk groups.

Even so, those who, due to lack of information, are not called will be able to access the vaccine through a medical declaration.

Centralised logistics operation

Usually vaccination plans are carried out in a decentralised, regionalised process close to vaccination sites, but in the case of Covid-19 vaccine, this new operation will be centralised, in what Francisco Ramos described as "a logic of command and control".

There will be a central command in the Ministry of Health, whose technical direction will be in charge of the Directorate General of Health, with the support of the 'task force' responsible for the plan, through the support of the Armed Forces, security forces and intelligence services.

Registration and monitoring of vaccination

The plan presented today also provides for clinical follow-up studies, immune response monitoring and effectiveness studies, work that is being coordinated with Infarmed.

Vaccination monitoring will also be carried out, through the robustness of the electronic vaccine registry, which will ensure, on the one hand, that as soon as a person is vaccinated, a second dose will be scheduled.

Vaccine is optional, but 'task force' wants to promote take up

In the vaccination plan, the 'Task Force' devotes a chapter to the communication strategy, underlining the objective of promoting Portuguese adherence to vaccination.

This work will be done through health professionals, the entities involved in the vaccination process, the media, influencers and the people themselves, with the aim of ensuring acceptance of the vaccine and combating disinformation.