“All debates and conversations are interesting and important. When we say that vaccines save thousands of people and people say they don't, there is no meeting place here to discuss. We cannot find a margin for discussion when we do not agree with the basic fact that generates the discussion”, said vice-admiral Gouveia e Melo in an interview with Lusa news agency.
On 14 August, when visiting a vaccine centre in Odivelas, where young teenagers were concentrated, a group of anti-vaccination protesters called him a “murderer”, while declaring themselves against the vaccination of young people, arguing that “children are not guinea pigs”.
“People tried to bar my way and were screaming in my ears. That's not democracy. Democracy is discussing arguments,” he said.
"There were kids who went to get their vaccines and were confronted with protestors shouting “There goes another one to die”. This put undue pressure on the children. These people need to have to have a lesson in democracy”.
Gouveia e Melo emphasised that “no one is obliged to be vaccinated”.
“But whoever wants to be vaccinated must be able to pass through the door calmly and must be able to exit through the same door calmly after being vaccinated. You don't have to be harassed, frightened or psychologically persecuted”.
The vice-admiral states that being under the protection of the Personal Security Corps does not interfere with his day-to-day life or with his itinerary through the vaccination infrastructure and indicates that "there is no fear of physical aggression" by activists who do not agree with the process or with the measures imposed because of the pandemic.
What was considered was the possibility of “any type of provocation that, in terms of image, could be negative for the image of the vaccination process itself”.
“It would not be good, for example, for the Armed Forces to see a general officer being attacked in the street. And it would be worse if a general officer or a military man reacted to the aggression”, he said.
Gouveia e Melo said that he has already come across “very irrational people” in the past and that, “no matter how calm and thoughtful they may be, in a moment of aggression, a person can lose all thoughtfulness and this is better not to happen”.
He claims to be “very calm” and assures that it was not his initiative to ask for police protection.
“It was a threat assessment done by our services, which felt that I should have protection because the excitement of these people and groups on social media went beyond normal rhetoric. But I never felt threatened,” he said.
“I think that these people live in a bubble, that they isolate themselves from everything around them that doesn't confirm their reality. Afterwards, it's very difficult to talk to these people, it's not because of our lack of will. These people have an almost irrational and often irascible attitude when we try to talk about facts”, he said.
Noting that the spread of vaccines across the population has coincided with a reduction in the incidence of coronavirus infections, he admits that "people can believe anything, even unbelievable things."
“The whole world has already vaccinated 200 or 300 million people. How many died as a result of the vaccination? How many died as a result of the virus?...If we do not arrive at a concrete fact so that we can discuss and compare options, there is no discussion possible”, he concluded.