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Naval Officer Wins Praise for Portugal's Vaccine Rollout

Αssociated Press

Rear Admiral Henrique Gouveia e Melo poses for a portrait outside a vaccination center in Lisbon, Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2021. (AP Photo/Armando Franca)

OEIRAS, Portugal — As Portugal closes in on its goal of fully vaccinating 85% of the population against COVID-19 in nine months, other countries in Europe and beyond want to know how it was accomplished.

A lot of the credit is going to Rear Adm. Henrique Gouveia e Melo. With his team from the three branches of the armed forces, the naval officer took charge of the vaccine rollout in February — perhaps the moment of greatest tension in Portugal over the pandemic.

Now, the county could be just days away from hitting its target. As of Wednesday, 84% of the total population was fully vaccinated, the highest globally, according to Our World in Data.

Along with the rising number of shots, the COVID-19 infection rate and hospitalizations from the virus have dropped to their lowest levels in nearly 18 months.

Previously unheralded outside the military, Gouveia e Melo is now a household name in Portugal, having made a point of going on television regularly to answer public concerns about the vaccination program.