CORONAVIRUS

Spanish PM announces ‘unique’ vaccination strategy via the country’s primary healthcare system

Pedro Sánchez stated on Sunday that the campaign could begin as early as January, and that the government will “guarantee fair access to the vaccine or vaccines”

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez at a press conference on Sunday.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez at a press conference on Sunday.Pool / Reuters

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez made a public address on Sunday night to announce that the first coronavirus vaccine or vaccines that are approved and arrive in Spain will be administered in 13,000 different points across the country. The Socialist Party (PSOE) leader also explained some of the strategies that Spain will follow once the immunizations are approved by the appropriate regulatory agencies and are available for distribution.

The process could, Sánchez explained, “tentatively [start] in January.” Speaking at a press conference after a virtual meeting of the G-20 international forum, the prime minister added that a group of experts will make the decision as to which sections of society will be given priority for the vaccinations. Medical professionals and seniors – in particular those in care homes – will be among the first, along with the chronically ill and high-risk individuals due to previous conditions.

The first coronavirus vaccine or vaccines that are approved and arrive in Spain will be administered in 13,000 different points across the country

The 13,000 vaccination points coincide with the number of healthcare centers and clinics that are currently available in Spain’s regions. The primary healthcare network will be in charge of administering the first vaccines that arrive in Spain. This strategy differs from that announced by Germany, where each federal state, or länder, will have infrastructure that is separate from the healthcare system to begin the vaccinations. Berlin, for example, will use a velodrome, an airport hangar and a stadium, among other sites.

The primary healthcare network in Spain, meanwhile, is an efficient way to deliver the vaccine given that its centers are located close to the country’s population. Pedro Sánchez highlighted this strength on Sunday, pointing to the fact that 10 million people are vaccinated against the flu every year in the country. This year, in just eight weeks, the campaign has immunized 14 million people. “The National Health System is ready,” he said.

The vaccination strategy will be “unique,” the Spanish prime minister continued. It will be agreed on with the Interterritorial Council of the National Health System, which groups together all of Spain’s regional healthcare chiefs and the national Health Ministry. The government will “guarantee fair access to the vaccine or vaccines,” he added. The government’s plan involves starting the vaccination program in January, and ensuring that “a very substantial part of the population can be vaccinated with all the guarantees in the first quarter of the year,” as the prime minister had already announced on Friday.

The clinical trial of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine.
The clinical trial of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine.AP

As well as healthcare experts from the regions, participants in the creation of Spain’s vaccination strategy include biotech specialists, the Spanish Association of Vaccinology, and experts in mathematical and sociological modeling. Fair access to the vaccine is guaranteed, the prime minister added, thanks to the organization of the National Health System in Spain, based on universal access and the structure of the primary healthcare network.

The head of the government also explained that an information and registration system will also be created for monitoring the vaccination process. The Health Ministry will supply the vaccines while the regions will have to have at their disposal the materials, teams and resources needed to administer them.

Sánchez also reiterated that the European Union has signed five contracts to acquire 1.2 billion doses of the vaccine, and that Spain will be assigned 10% of the doses given the size of its population. Up to now, contracts have been signed with AstraZeneca, Sanofi-GSK, Janssen, BioNTech-Pfizer and CureVac – the latter just a few days ago. What’s more, there are advanced talks taking place with other pharmaceutical firms, such as Moderna from the United States, to close more deals.

Sánchez also admitted on Sunday night that the upcoming Christmas holidays “are going to be different from those that we have always known.” This year, he continued, “we are going to have to stay at a distance from our loved ones instead of hugging them.” The priority, he said, “must be avoiding a third wave.” He explained that the Interterritorial Council is working on recommendations for the festive season, which he defined as being “different but safe.”

Sánchez admitted that the upcoming Christmas holidays “are going to be different from those that we have always known”

The prime minister said that the state of alarm introduced in March during the first wave, which involved one of the world’s strictest coronavirus lockdowns, was successful; as is the second state of alarm that is currently in place, and which gives the country’s regions the legal framework needed to limit mobility according to the situation of the pandemic in each territory.

He pointed to the fact that the 14-day cumulative number of coronavirus cases per 100,000 inhabitants has been falling in Spain for the last two weeks thanks to the restrictions that are in place, and said that this key data point is due to fall below 400 cases today, Monday. “This is still a very high incidence,” he warned, insisting that the government’s objective is to get this figure below 25 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, a threshold that the health authorities consider as having the epidemic under control. The fall in recent days, he continued, indicates that “the downward trend is consistent and that the measures are having an effect.”

The latest data from the Health Ministry was released on Friday, and showed that the 14-day cumulative number of coronavirus cases per 100,000 inhabitants in Spain is at 419, with major differences between regions. Castilla y León, for example, nearly doubles the national average with 769, followed by the Basque Country with 691. The Canary Islands, meanwhile, are at the other end of the scale with 80 cases. None of Spain’s regions is below the 25-mark. The peak of the second wave was seen on November 4, when an average of 529 cases per 100,000 inhabitants was registered. Since then, the figure has been falling, albeit very slowly.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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