With a day of delay, the first 350,000 doses of the Pfizer and BioNTech Covid-19 vaccines arrived in Spain on Tuesday, as the mass immunization campaign got underway after a symbolic administration of the vaccine across all of the country’s regions on Sunday. The containers with the vaccine arrived by plane on Tuesday at airports in Madrid, Barcelona, Vitoria, Valencia and Seville, from where they were distributed to the rest of the regions, according to a statement from the Health Ministry. The Spanish army will transport the vials that are to be allocated to the Canary and Balearic Islands, as well as Spain’s North African exclave cities of Ceuta and Melilla.
Some of the regions will begin their vaccination campaign today, while others will do so on Wednesday. This first batch of vaccines was due to arrive on Monday, but its delivery was delayed due to logistical problems suffered by Pfizer in Belgium related to the temperature control of the virus. The problem affected delivery to other European countries as well as Spain.
In Extremadura, health official Ceciliano Franco confirmed that the vaccination program would be reset after the delay so that it could be carried out “at an unhurried pace,” Lucía Tolosa reports. In the Basque Country, meanwhile, 16,000 doses were distributed in eight trucks to a company named Bexen Medical in Hernani, Gipuzkoa, which will store them at the low temperatures necessary for their proper conservation. From there, they will be sent on Wednesday directly to the residences and centers were they will be administered, Pedro Gorospe reports.
In Madrid, vaccinations will not restart until tomorrow, Wednesday, in 37 senior residences and other care homes. Galicia, meanwhile, will today administer the vaccines that were left over from Sunday’s immunizations, while the newly arrived doses will be used from Wednesday onward, Caridad Bermo reports. The regional health department in Valencia announced it will restart its program today, Ferran Bono reports.
The vaccine is being sent out from the Pfizer factory in Puurs, Belgium to distribution centers in each country in thermal containers with dry ice, which keep the medication at between -60 and -80ºC. Then the boxes can be opened for the distribution of the trays within, which contain 975 doses each. These can be kept for five days at temperatures of between 2 and 8ºC.
The Health Ministry is planning to send an average of 350,000 doses to the regions each Monday, barring any new delays. In the next 12 weeks, Spain is due to receive 4,591,275 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, which will be used to immunize 2,295,638 people. This will cover the first stage of the immunization program, which includes residents and staff in homes for seniors and the disabled, healthcare workers and adults with dependencies who are not in institutions.
English version by Simon Hunter.