In an article dated 8 November, Manuel Carmo Gomes and Carlos Antunes, from the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Lisbon, argue that, so that the coronavirus does not interfere with the normalisation of life for the Portuguese, a high protection of the population must be maintained, with boosting vaccinations in age groups where new cases have increased more, even if they have a lower risk of serious disease.
“The maintenance of a high level of immunological protection for the Portuguese population must be ensured. If necessary, administering booster shots to groups identified as having a higher risk of infection and transmission of the virus, not just those most at risk for serious disease,” they write.
Experts point out that, in recent weeks, the ages where the risk of infection has been highest are between 18 and 25 years old, followed by children under 10 years old and young adults between 25 and 40 years old.
These ages, they underline, increased “socialisation after October 1st, when the country entered the third phase of easing of lockdown, associated with the 85% vaccine coverage achieved”.
They recall that, occasionally, there have been some outbreaks in nursing homes, "giving rise to high incidences in people over 70 years of age", but - they insist - "globally it is not the elderly who have originated more cases".
However, they emphasize, "the oldest people are still the most susceptible to serious illness, justifying hospitalizations and, eventually, deaths".
As an example, they indicate that, over the month of October, "those over 70 years of age accounted for around 70% of those admitted to the covid-19 ward and around 91% of deaths, but only 15% of the infections that occurred".
They argue that only the combination of high vaccination coverage with the maintenance of non-pharmacological measures, especially the use of masks and ventilation of closed spaces, can significantly delay the spread of SARS-CoV-2.
"Failure to comply with at least one of these requirements is a likely explanation for the resurgence of the infection we are currently seeing in Europe, even in countries with 60% to 75% of the population vaccinated, as is the case in the United Kingdom, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Greece and Ireland”, they write.
In the article published on the website of the Faculty of Sciences of Universidade Nova, Manuel Carmo Gomes (epidemiologist) and Carlos Antunes (mathematician) say that "it is predictable" that this autumn and winter Portugal will continue to have "a daily incidence of several hundred cases and a small number of deaths”.
“In fact, recent data from early November suggest an appreciable resurgence of the infection, and we are likely to see the start of the 5th wave,” they add.