The over-80s will be the next group in Spain to receive the Covid-19 vaccine, Spain’s Health Minister Salvador Illa announced on Wednesday. The first phase, which began at the end of December, is currently immunizing residents of senior homes, their carers, health workers and adults with with need for daily assistance even if they are not in residential care. When this is complete, and assuming the vaccines arrive at the expected rate, the campaign will move on to the next phase, most likely in March.
The over-80s are the most vulnerable group when it comes to the coronavirus, and account for nearly 67% of all official Covid deaths in Spain despite making up just 6% of the population (2.8 million people).
The decision to focus on this group next was reached by the Inter-Territorial Council of the National Health System (CISNS), which brings together the central Health Ministry and the country’s regional health departments.
A fall in coronavirus infections is already being noted at the senior residences where the vaccine has been administered
Initially, there were plans to immunize the over-90s next, but this is a small group in Spain of just over 500,000 people. A decision has not yet been made on who the next group will be, but the working group that will make the decision is likely to opt for the over-70s (four million people in Spain), people of other ages with at-risk pathologies (eight million) and then essential workers (5.3 million people, including teachers). However, these decisions will depend on the number of vaccines that are available at any given time.
During Wednesday’s meeting of the CISNS, health chiefs expressed their concern over the slowdown in the supply of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines this week, something that could put the campaign plan at risk should it continue.
According to the health minister, the vaccination program is currently running at the required speed despite a slow start in some regions. The latest data show that a million people have received the vaccine, which is 76.2% of the doses that have so far been delivered to Spain. Of these, 15,642 have received the second dose required for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to provide its highest level of protection.
“The current bottleneck at the moment is the arrival of the vaccines,” said Illa on Wednesday, adding that the 21 days between doses is a minimum requirement, but there are no issues should the second injection be administered 22, 23 or 24 days later. Whatever the case, the minister said he was confident that the doses would arrive at the expected rate.
The minister also stated that a fall in coronavirus infections is being noted at the senior residences where the vaccine has been administered, “as was expected.” While in most cases only the first dose has been injected, that is sufficient to offer a certain level of protection. Studies in Israel, which is the country that has advanced furthest with its vaccination program, show that positive effects in terms of reducing transmission are notable as soon as the first injection has been delivered.
English version by Simon Hunter.