Portugal’s healthcare system was on the verge of collapse earlier this year. In the capital, Lisbon, hospitals are overcrowded. Authorities have asked people to treat themselves at home. In the last week of January, nearly two thousand people died due to the spread of the virus.
The country’s vaccination program is crumbling. The government turned to Rear Admiral Henrique Cueva e Melo, the former commander of the submarine, to prevent the ship from sinking and to pay for the shutdown campaign in safe water.
Eight months later, Portugal is at the forefront of vaccination in the world. 86 percent of the 10.3 million population is fully vaccinated – Report A New York Times.
The admiral said that nearly 98 percent of those eligible for the vaccine, that is, those over 12 years of age, had been fully vaccinated.
“We have reached group security levels and almost complete herd immunity,” Gouveia e Melo said.
All restrictions on the corona virus in Portugal were lifted last week. The number of new cases has dropped drastically and the number of deaths is very low.
In many Western countries, it is fortunate that there are so many vaccines, and even though one-fifth of the population is still vulnerable, the preference for vaccination remains stagnant. They look with keen eyes at what lessons it can provide if almost everyone has the right to protection.
There are alarming signs from Israel and elsewhere that the protection provided by vaccines is weakening over time, but there is a global debate about who should get the booster dose and when.
In Portugal, news of horror and lies were as widespread as elsewhere
Gouveia e Melo said Portugal would soon begin vaccinating the elderly and those considered medically at risk. The senior official hopes that all of them will be vaccinated by the end of December.
Currently, while bars and nightclubs are glowing alive, the number of infections and the number of deaths are declining.
The country’s vaccination campaign has proven successful despite facing many obstacles that have led other countries to fail.
The same false news about vaccines filled Portuguese social accounts like elsewhere. The country is governed by a minority left-wing government that truly reflects the country’s political divisions. According to opinion polls, there were widespread doubts about the effectiveness of vaccines when they appeared.
This time due to Admiral Cuvia e Melo. An expert dealing with complex logistics challenges in the military was appointed chairman of the National Vaccine Task Force in February.
Among his many public roles, Admiral Sudar wore exclusively his uniformed uniform, while attempting to shape the nation into a single collective, anti-epidemic force.
The primary task is to treat this as a war
The officer said he recalled how he approached the mission. “I used not only the language of war, but also the language of soldiers.”
Politicians around the world have used similar militant terms. However, in his personal success the Admiral was seen as a political alien.
When he was appointed, he quickly recruited about three dozen staff led by elite soldiers, including mathematicians, physicians, researchers and strategists from the Portuguese army, air force and navy.
What can others do to make vaccination efforts effective?
“They need to find non-politicians,” he replied without hesitation.
Confidence was built with soldiers, doctors and nurses
Based on the already devastating polio experience in Portugal, there was a strong national vaccination program prior to the corona virus outbreak. When the Admiral was born in 1960, a stroke struck the country. Cuvia e Melo still vividly remembers the illness of a family friend’s daughter and the suffering that followed.
Suspicions among minorities in Portugal and less voice than vaccines and other places
Portuguese anthropologist Manuela Ivon da Cunha studied anti-vaccine movements.
According to the former Portuguese health minister, the Portuguese campaign clearly benefited from discipline as a result of the appointment of a military officer.
“His communication policy is credible and builds confidence,” Leonor Belesa said.
The Admiral built trust with the troops. People were able to see that the vaccines were safe because the soldiers received the vaccines in a row. At the same time, he placed more emphasis on showing vaccinated medical staff who declared the vaccines safe.
During the summer, the campaign targeted younger people. At that time, less than half of the population was vaccinated, but resistance grew.
Protesters blocked the entrance to a vaccination center in Lisbon, so he wore his war uniform and went there without guards.
“They called him a killer,” he recalled.
However, he stood in the mud.
“I said the killer was the virus,” the Admiral threw at them.
The real killers, who lived like they did in the 13th century, but they had no clear idea of the reality.
Not everyone welcomed his approach.
“We don’t have a culture of questioning the authorities,” said a medical psychologist, who considers a mass vaccination campaign too militant, so he took the initiative to exclude young people from it.
He always disguises himself as being in battle. Along with the language used by the media and politicians, it creates fear, which makes it more interesting to obey and not listen, ”Laura Sanchez added.
However, the campaign is certainly successful.
Initially, the insecurity rate was 40 percent. Now, according to surveys, only 2.2 percent of people do not want to be vaccinated, said Admiral Cavia e Melo, who feels he has completed the task entrusted to him, so he resigned.
(Cover image: On September 11, 2021, Henrik Cueva e Melo visits the Corona virus vaccination center in Lisbon. Photo: PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA / AFP)