Speech by Jerónimo de Sousa, General Secretary of the PCP, Public Hearing «Guarantee rapid vaccination for all»

Guarantee rapid vaccination for all

Guarantee rapid vaccination for all

I would like to begin by thanking you for having accepted our invitation for this hearing, whose theme " Guarantee rapid vaccination for all" is very topical and has merited attention and a permanent intervention by the PCP.

The epidemic outbreak that the country faces poses a very significant set of health, economic and social problems of unquestionable seriousness that must be faced with responsibility and determination.

We remain convinced that Portugal needs measures to prevent and contain the virus and point out the reservations that have motivated our distancing from the State of Emergency.

We recently heard from the President of the Republic the intention to present the 15th State of Emergency Decree to the Assembly of the Republic.

We reaffirm that the State of Emergency has only served to impose restrictions on the mobility of the Portuguese, on the activity of thousands of micro, small and medium-sized companies and the destruction of the cultural and sports fabric, in a context in which the effectiveness of many of the measures that have been adopted remains to be seen.

Throughout the several periods of the State of Emergency and the restrictive measures of the so-called lockdown, the PCP has stressed concerns and insisted on proposals that reality continues to confirm as absolutely vital to national life.

Many of the problems that the country is witnessing today are worsened by the epidemic and by the use that big capital makes of it, to serve its immediate interests of accumulation and maximization of profit, deepening exploitation and inequalities, like the increase in unemployment, the wage cuts, but also with the compulsory termination of activities, increasing social problems that affect workers, children, youth and various strata of the population.

In the decisions that have been taken in the fight against Covid-19, continue measures not seeking to find a balanced relationship between the effective fight against the epidemic outbreak and measures that prevent the country from continuing to move towards the deterioration of the economic and social situation, but an option in which the so-called red lines whose main objective is a return to lockdown, based on transferring responsibility to individual behaviours to conceal the absence or insufficiency of the measures that are needed.

The solution cannot be to insist on the closure of activities, and on the conditioning of social life, often without the justification being perceived by the populations already tired of a year of lockdown, exposing them to clashes with the authorities.

We stress once again that what is needed is to take the alternative measures to the lockdown so that it comes to an end and is not repeated, ensuring safe operation.

The option cannot be «lockdown, unlockdown, lockdown again»

The option that serves the interests of the country and of the Portuguese people is a strong and determined intervention in which, in addition to the health protection standards already adopted, it develops in three directions:

- massive testing, defining strict criteria and priorities.

- screening of all new cases and contacts made by them, with reinforcement of professionals in the public health structure.

- guarantee of rapid vaccination for all.

Vaccination which is the most solid solution to solve the problem in the long term.

It is necessary to guarantee vaccination and to overcome once and for all the difficulties created by the multinational pharmaceutical companies that do not comply with the contracts and leave the Country without enough vaccines.

The PCP underlines the importance to proceed as quickly and safely as possible with the vaccination process according to the plan defined by the Vaccination Monitoring Committee. A process that may be jeopardised if the country remains tied to the decisions of the European Commission and if the pharmaceutical companies continue to show difficulties in production and distribution.

In the face of a public health emergency, the pharmaceutical industry once again reveals that what really matters is not health protection, but an opportunity to maximize profit and the business.

The agreements established between the pharmaceutical companies and the European Commission give huge guarantees to companies. The “European Union strategy for vaccines against Covid-19,” of June 2020, makes it very clear that companies are not bearing any risk and that vaccines are being developed with public resources, when it states that: “In order to help companies develop and produce a vaccine quickly, the Commission will celebrate agreements with each vaccine producer on behalf of the Member States.”

That is, in addition to the purchase of the vaccine, the European Commission is also bearing the burden of paying for the development of the vaccine, which is an extremely advantageous business for any company. Even in this context, the companies are not complying with the agreement with the European Union. It is always money in the till!

The PCP has already presented its proposals and they are clear.

Diversify the purchase of vaccines, making available to the Country all vaccines that can be used in conditions of safety and efficacy; create conditions of safety and efficiency; create conditions for the national production of vaccines, making the necessary investment both in terms of scientific development and in the industrial capacity for their production; suspend or cancel patents if that is the way to break the blockade imposed by pharmaceutical companies on the only true solution capable of saving lives and fighting the epidemic. A diversification that, as we are witnessing, a growing number of European Union countries are adopting, not accepting the delays, as has now been confirmed by Germany.

This was what the PCP took for discussion in the Assembly of the Republic last April 8 and it was on this that every party pronounced itself, with PS, PSD, CDS and IL preventing its adoption.

It is also important, in terms of vaccination, to ensure that the process proceeds without further hassles or hurdles. It is absolutely essential that the government assume its responsibility in organising the vaccination process through the NHS, ensuring all the necessary means for this purpose, namely the hiring of the necessary professionals.

Throwing the responsibility on local government bodies for the hiring of nurses or the implementation of other essential practical aspects for the vaccination to advance would mean leaving the Country to the logic of every man for himself and, even more serious, it would mean that the vaccination criteria were no longer those that had been decided and that the Portuguese would then be vaccinated according to the financial capacity of their local governments. In this way, there would be a heightening of social inequalities, added to territorial inequalities.
The persistence of the epidemic poses urgent and pressing responses to the complex problems that it has raised over the months. A response that, rejecting lockdown as a rule and the dangerous trivialisation of the State of Emergency as a solution, calls for an alternative approach that, limiting as much as possible the framework of obstacles and restrictions on which the government and the European Union are betting, requires, yes, a different mobilisation of means that continue to be denied.

Means to reinforce measures of prevention, screening, testing and vaccination; means to strengthen the NHS in the fight against Covid and to resume the programmed activity; means to reinforce social support in the various areas to those who have been hit in their wages and income; means to support and guarantee economic stability - including state enterprises - and the survival of thousands of micro, small and medium-sized companies; and the appropriate programming and preparation with the respective support to safely resume economic, social, educational, cultural, and sports activities, which are also essential to the life and health of the Portuguese.

Measures for whose materialisation we believe it is absolutely essential to put into practice the more than 20 proposals presented by the PCP set down in the State Budget, particularly those aimed at sectors that are already severely affected by the epidemic and previous impacts, such as tourism, restaurants, hospitality and culture, but also to guarantee social protection to all those who need it.

It is with concern that we find that the vast majority of these proposals aimed at strengthening the NHS have not yet been implemented, namely the reinforcement of the public healthcare structure that is essential for the successful fight against Covid.

Strengthening the National Health Service, which has a unique and decisive intervention in this fight. An intervention that cannot be replaced by those who look at health as a business.