CORONAVIRUS

Coronavirus vaccines due to arrive in Spain from January 4, says health minister

The regional government of the Balearic Islands has also announced tougher restrictions for Mallorca, including a 10pm curfew on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve

Boxes containing the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine.
Boxes containing the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine.POOL / Reuters

Spanish Health Minister Salvador Illa announced on Monday that the first coronavirus vaccines could start arriving in Spain “from January 4 or 5,” once the European Medicines Agency (EMA) approves a vaccine candidate. The EMA is likely to approve the Covid-19 vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech by December 29 at the latest. This vaccine has already been approved for use in the United Kingdom, which began vaccinating priority groups last week.

Spain could start administering the vaccine early next month. Illa said that the “specific calendar” will depend on final approval by the EMA, which will meet in 15 days to analyze the Pfizer vaccine, and again on January 12 to do the same with Moderna’s.

The minister added that the Spanish immunization plan “guarantees that all regions will progressively receive” the doses, depending on the speed with which they arrive in Spain. Illa undescored that the vaccines “are not all going to arrive on January 4 or 5” but “progressively, at the rate that they are manufactured.”

Speaking at an online event organized by the New Economy Forum, Illa also sought to ease concerns from the Madrid region about a possible shortage of doses. “Spain will have 140 million doses. There will be vaccines for everyone, and there will be more than enough,” he said, adding that the vaccines will arrive in “stages.”

“Spain has all its capacities ready so that as soon as the doses arrive, we can immunize the population with all the necessary guarantees,” he said.

Spain will have 140 million doses. There will be vaccines for everyone, and there will be more than enough
Health Minister Salvador Illa

According to Illa, if all goes to plan, “15 to 20 million Spaniards could be vaccinated by May or June. And a very significant number by the end of summer, which would allow us to be in a very different situation with respect to controlling the virus.”

Following agreements between the European Union and six pharmaceutical companies (AstraZeneca, Sanofi-GSK, Janssen, BioNTech-Pfizer, CureVac and Moderna), Spain is slated to receive 140 million doses of coronavirus vaccines. Because most of these are double-dose, it will be enough for 80 million people, almost twice the population of Spain. The excess doses are meant as a reserve, to encourage production, and to help developing countries.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez explained in November that the primary healthcare network will be in charge of administering the first vaccines that arrive in Spain. Vaccination will be voluntary and available free of charge.

The immunization drive will be divided into three phases, coinciding with the first three quarters of the year. The first phase will target residents and staff of care homes, other healthcare workers and people with serious disabilities, for a total of around 2.5 million individuals. The ministry is hoping to complete this phase between January and March. Phase 2 is set to cover the April-to-June period, followed by Phase 3 between July and September. No decision has been made yet on the order of who will be vaccinated in these last two phases. The Health Ministry has, however, classified the population into 15 groups that will have access to the vaccine at different times.

Coronavirus restrictions

The regional government of the Balearic Islands on Monday approved tougher coronavirus restrictions on the island of Mallorca, which has been classified at an “extreme risk” level. The regional government is expected to maintain the 10pm curfew every day, including Christmas Eve, Christmas and December 26, which is a regional holiday. Bars, restaurants and cafés on the island will only be allowed to serve customers in outdoor areas and will have to close at 6pm on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and every night before a national or regional holiday, reports Lucía Bohórquez.

The news comes after the regional government announced last Friday that it will require a negative coronavirus test from all Spanish travelers who visit the archipelago from December 20. The type of test result required will depend on the nature of the visit. Tourists from regions where the 14-day cumulative number of coronavirus cases per 100,000 inhabitants is above 150 will need to present a negative PCR result taken within 72 hours from the point of departure. Based on the latest data from the Spanish Ministry, the only territories with an incidence rate below this threshold are the Canary Islands, Murcia and Ceuta, an exclave city in North Africa. If a tourist arrives without a negative PCR test, they will have to take an antigen test upon arrival and will be fined.

If the trip is for a reason considered justified under the state of alarm, such as to go to work or to the hospital, travelers have to take an antigen test at the port or the airport if they have spent more than 72 hours outside of the Balearic Island.

In the Canary Islands, the upper limit on social and family gatherings will be six people, except for the island of Tenerife, where it will be four. On the other islands, up to 10 people may come together on holidays. There will also be a 1am-6am curfew between December 23 and January 10, although from December 31 to January 1 it will be pushed to 1.30am.

English version by Melissa Kitson.


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