Portugal is among the countries with the highest vaccination coverage against COVID-19. In practice, there are no people left to be vaccinated – 98% of the adult population is in two doses and only children under 12 years of age are not injected.
How has it been possible to achieve such results that many governments around the world would obviously be happy to welcome? Behind this vaccination campaign, which ran like a well-oiled machine, is a vice admiral – 61-year-old former submarine commander Enrique Gouvea is Melo. He spearheaded the campaign in February, when the country was on the verge of collapse. Hospitals in Lisbon cannot take the influx of patients and people are called to be treated at home. In just one week at the end of January, nearly 2,000 people died from the virus. Doubts are spreading in the country about the effectiveness of covid preparations, opinions on social networks are highly polarized. And it was at this point that Vice Admiral Gouvea e Melo was appointed head of the National Vaccination Working Group. Nine months later, the population was vaccinated and by the end of the year, the vice admiral was convinced that booster doses could be given to all elderly and vulnerable people, according to The New York Times.
What is the Vice Admiral’s strategy? According to him, the key to his success is simple: “Keep politicians away!” It is with this famous phrase that he reversed the course of the campaign. In his numerous public and television appearances, Gouvea is Melo invariably appearing in his military uniform. It brings together a team of about 30 people – mostly elite military (strategic experts from the Portuguese army, navy and air force), but also doctors, analysts and consistent mathematicians. A key point is the vaccination of the military themselves in order to instill confidence, and also as an element of discipline and social responsibility. However, when it comes time to vaccinate young people in the summer, there are again signs of increased resistance, but it has once again been overcome. How did the Vice Admiral achieve it? “When you’re on a submarine, you’re in a slow ship trying to catch faster ships. You need to position yourself well and take the opportunity when it comes up, ”he advises. Thus, in July, such an opportunity really appears and Gouvea Melo takes full advantage of it. Protesters blocked the entrance to a vaccination center in Lisbon, chanting anti-vaccination slogans. The Vice Admiral appears among them, again in his combat uniform and unguarded, but in front of the television cameras. To the chants of the assembled crowd, who call him a “killer,” he calmly replies that the killers are the virus itself and “people who live as if it were the thirteenth century, with no idea of reality.” Portugal removes outdoor masks in Portugal Portuguese authorities have lifted the obligation to wear protective masks outdoors, AFP reported. The measure was dropped after the parl … Read more “I tried to communicate with them in a very honest way about all doubts and problems,” he said. In any case, the results of his approach are visible, Portugal is among the record holders today in the percentage of vaccinated. The fact is, however, that not everyone welcomes the Vice Admiral’s methods. “We don’t really have a culture of asking the authorities questions,” said Laura Sanchez, a clinical psychologist who criticized the mass vaccination in Portugal as too militaristic and called for it to exclude younger people. “The way he always presented himself in camouflage army uniforms – as if he were waging war – together with the language used by the media and politicians, contributed to instilling a sense of fear that also made us more willing to obey rather than we ask questions, ”she says.