The second month of the year is also the shortest, but by no means the least important. The name February comes from Latin - “februarius”, inspired by Februus, God of death and purification in Etruscan mythology*. In the Christian tradition, February is considered the month of light, as it represents the end of the forty-three days of the winter solstice, which is curious given the recovery of the epidemiological situation in Portugal throughout this month. Based on its Etymology, could we almost hope for good omens, despite the emergence of new strains of Sars-Cov-2, which are more contagious and consequently more deadly?
What we do know is that these strains have tested the effectiveness of vaccines produced against Covid-19.
As new information emerges, the spotlight is on the scientific community, and our experts are no exception.
Regarding the evolution of the Coronavirus and the impact of its mutations on the effectiveness of the vaccines produced, not forgetting the gaps in the national vaccination plan, there are many views that agree. On the vaccination plan in Portugal, Professor Luís Graça says that “the deadlines between the first and the second vaccine intake must be respected , since“ the authorities that regulate the medicines have to take what is learned from the trials into consideration”. In turn, Miguel Castanho also expresses concern about the emergence of new strains and asks for a lot of attention to these variants, regardless of where they occur. The fighting response must be quick and global, as “It is not worth that one part of the world disputes a lot about vaccines and retains them, leaving other parts of the world at its mercy. It is necessary to have a global strategy and to think globally”. Regarding the effects of the AstraZeneca vaccine in people over 65 years of age, Professor Joaquim Ferreira bases his view on the evidence of studies carried out by the European Agency, which, according to him, prove that this vaccine, even in older people, creates an immunological reaction. However, he does not rule out the need for vaccines to be improved and replaced by new versions.
As for the new vaccine from Johnson & Johnson, and the fact that it only requires taking a single dose, Professor Miguel Prudêncio defends that: "There are more benefits in this vaccine, adding that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has very favourable storage conditions, because it can be stored at a normal fridge temperature."
Válter Fonseca, professor at FMUL and Director of the DGS Quality Department, considers that taking the vaccines without being part of the priority groups is deplorable, at a time when we often watch news of cases of undue vaccination of people who are not a priority.
In order to avoid the incorrect administration of vaccines, and analysing the applicability, acceptability and transparency of vaccination strategies, Válter Fonseca joined immunologist Luís Graça and paediatrician José Gonçalo Marques on the COVID-19 vaccination technical committee, created as a consultative group of the Directorate-General for Health.
In the face of a grey, rainy, angry February, and at a time when the world is observing the fragility of its foundations, there is also good news that gives us hope and motivation to face potential future obstacles. In the month when we celebrate love, another issue of the journal Coração e Vasos was published, a trip through the corridors of the cardiology services of some hospitals, which, despite being in a limiting situation, have health professionals capable of working extra hard and guarantee the functioning of the service that takes care of the heart.
But the good news does not end there. Professor Carmo Fonseca deserves a mention for having, over the years, managed to decode the human genome. Under this discovery, and associated with the development of various technologies, it is possible to know, in detail, the genome of each type of cancer – - significant steps in the search for the cure of the other pandemic we have been experiencing for decades.
And speaking of technology - one that has been a faithful ally of all discoveries - it is at the CHULN Clinical Pathology Laboratory, led by Professor and President of the Scientific Council of FMUL, José Melo Cristino, that is gains strength by making possible the 700 to 800 daily Covid-19 diagnostic tests ordered by Santa Maria Hospital, health units, homes and other institutions.
According to David Yoon, a young rising New York writer: "The greatest strength of humanity - and also the reason for its final fall - is the ability to normalize even the bizarre". We find some truth in this sentence. In fact, what was once strange to us, got ingrained in us. In a troubled period for the National Health Service, there are those who stand out for their resilience and the ability to help others. An impetus that led the University of Lisbon launch a campaign to recruit volunteers within the university community, with the purpose of helping in the fight against the pandemic. However, the University did not stop here. Acting proactively, it liberated space at the University Stadium, so that a field hospital that had 58 beds could accommodate 150. Almost 100 patients have been assisted at this field hospital, and this enlargement may, eventually, accommodate patients who could go home but cannot do so due to lack of conditions. Also, the Faculty to Help and the AEFML joined the Solidarity Bed Campaign, in a joint effort to support all health professionals who are at the forefront, promoting a campaign to raise food.
At a time when Covid-19, despite the decrease in the daily number of infected people of this 3rd wave, does not let us rest, it is important to safeguard other diseases, as well as other types of health care. In an article dedicated to personality change after stoke, Professor José Manuel Ferro explains the 5 main changes in behaviour of a patient who has suffered a stroke, whose treatment seems to require a multidisciplinary team that monitors and encourages the patient in achieving quality of life. Another war that we fight every day and month.
February was all this and more. In this second issue of News@FMUL of 2021, we bring you another list of news, stories, testimonials of people who in February complete another cycle of forty-three days of the winter solstice, because we are always connected.