LISBON, Dec. 3 (Xinhua) -- The Portuguese government will start its national COVID-19 vaccination campaign in January 2021, it was announced here on Thursday.
Coronavirus vaccines will be "free, optional and administered by the National Health Service (SNS)" to frontline workers and the elderly as a priority.
In the first phase, 950,000 "priority" people will be vaccinated, starting with 250,000 healthcare professionals, nursing home residents and those hospitalized in intensive care units.
Next, 400,000 people aged 50 and above with pre-existing conditions will be vaccinated.
At the end of the first phase, 300,000 people will receive the vaccine, including health professionals directly involved in the care of patients and professionals from security forces and critical services.
The second phase of vaccination will cover 1.8 million people with pre-existing conditions, while the "rest of the population" will receive the shot during the third phase, Portuguese Health Minister Marta Temido said.
According to Temido, the entire immunization process "will continue for many months," and in the meantime the "other rules" of mask use, social distancing and other preventive measures will remain in force.
Portugal has signed contracts with six laboratories for the delivery of at least 22 million doses of vaccine in 2021.
As the world is struggling to control the pandemic, countries across the globe -- among them Germany, China, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States -- are racing to find a vaccine.
According to the website of the World Health Organization, as of Nov. 26, there were 213 COVID-19 candidate vaccines being developed worldwide, and 49 of them were in clinical trials.
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