Portugal expands booster shots as COVID-19 cases rise

View of a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination centre in Seixal
General view inside a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination centre in Seixal, Portugal, September 11, 2021. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes

LISBON, Nov 24 (Reuters) - Portugal, one of the world's most vaccinated nations, will give COVID-19 booster shots to a quarter of its population by the end of January, the health secretary said on Wednesday, as authorities try to stop a recent surge in infections.

The number of cases in Portugal reached a four-month daily high of 3,773 on Wednesday. Deaths, however, remain far below January levels, when the country faced its toughest battle against COVID-19, and the infection rate is far lower than in most of Western Europe.

Around 87% of Portugal's population of just over 10 million is fully inoculated, and the country's speedy vaccination rollout has been widely praised. That has allowed the nation to lift most of its pandemic restrictions. read more

But, as another wave of the pandemic sweeps across Europe, the government is gearing up to announce new rules on Thursday to limit spread of the coronavirus in the run-up to the holiday season.

Prime Minister Antonio Costa said last week the government was unlikely to bring back a lockdown and that the measures would aim to "disturb people's lives as little as possible." read more

More than 850,000 people have already received a booster shot. Health secretary Antonio Sales told a news conference that 2.5 million would get the additional shot by the end of January to tackle the "pandemic storm that has not yet passed."

People aged 50 and over who were inoculated with Johnson & Johnson's (JNJ.N) one-dose vaccine would be among those getting booster shots, Sales added.

Reporting by Lisbon bureau; Editing by Andrei Khalip and Bill Berkrot

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