Spain is beginning to administer the first Covid-19 vaccines to the general population aged under 60. The regions of Aragón, Andalusia and Navarre have started to schedule vaccination appointments for people aged over 55, while Catalonia, the Balearic Islands and the Basque Country are set to do so next week. This is despite the fact that the Spanish Health Ministry has yet to outline a plan for the vaccination of this younger demographic.
The last update to the ministry’s vaccination strategy only states that people in the 50-59 age group “will receive the vaccine considered best based on availability, the context of the pandemic and scientific evidence.” For now, this group is being vaccinated with the Covid-19 vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, which both work by using RNA messenger technology.
The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was restricted to the 60-69 population after the European Medicines Agency (EMA) found a “possible link” between the medication and rare blood clot cases in younger patients. A similar link was also found between the single-dose Covid-19 vaccine from Janssen, a unit of the US pharmaceutical Johnson & Johnson, which led to a temporary halt of its use. The Public Health Commission, which is made up of the central Health Ministry and the country’s regions, must now decide if one of both of these vaccines should be used on the 55-60 age group or be reserved for the older demographic, given most of the blood clot cases detected occurred in younger age groups.
This decision will determine the future of a million doses. A total of 5.5 million Janssen vaccines are set to arrive in Spain just in this quarter. But most of these doses will remain in storage until a decision is made on whether or not they should be administered to the under-60 population, given that the AstraZeneca vaccine is primarily being used on the 60-69 group and the Pfizer and Moderna on the over-70s.
Although a decision has not been reached, several regions – which are in charge of the vaccination drive as well as containing the pandemic in their territories – have decided to start vaccinating the under-60s with the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine. This comes as more doses begin to arrive in Spain. As of May, Pfizer alone is expected to deliver 1.3 million shots a week. Andalusia and Aragón will administer the next doses to people aged 58 and 59, while Navarre will target the over-55s. This is set to happen as older groups receive the second shot required for full protection from the Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines.
Pfizer and Moderna are so far the only vaccines recommended for the under-60s. Although AstraZeneca shots were initially administered to essential workers in this age group, that stopped on April 7 when the Health Ministry changed its criteria in response to the EMA’s finding on the link between the medication and thrombosis cases.
On Monday, the Spanish government reached its first goal of the vaccination schedule: to have five million people immunized with both doses by the first week of May. A total of 76.8% of the over-60s have now received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.
Here is how the vaccination drive is advancing in each of Spain’s 17 regions.
The Andalusian health department has already begun to make vaccination appointments for people aged 59 and 58. This group will receive the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine, but the regional government also wants the AstraZeneca shots to be used for this demographic. The regional health chief, Jesús Aguirre, complained that 150,000 doses of AstraZeneca are in storage while the region waits for a decision about who they can be administered to. The region is also beginning to vaccinate dockworkers. “We have detected that contagions in Galicia and Basque Country are spread from these professionals,” said Aguirre.
The Andalusian regional government, known as the Junta, is expected to set a new record this week with 600,000 people vaccinated in seven days. The government also announced a plan to inoculate one million people a week, starting next week. To achieve this goal, the administration is going to increase the number of mass-vaccination centers run by the regional health service SAS from 271 to 300; and the number of third-party sites, such as sports facilities and stadiums, from 140 to 200.
Aragón is set to administer 94,932 doses this week, the highest figure since the vaccination campaign began at the end of December. Of this number, 37,800 are from AstraZeneca and will be administered this week and the next; 390 are from Moderna and 56,742 are from Pfizer. People in the age groups that are being vaccinated can schedule an appointment themselves to get their shot. As of Tuesday, the self-appointment system is open to those born between 1962 and 1963 – in other words, people turning 58 and 59 this year.
Asturias is currently vaccinating essential workers, the 60-69 age group and the 70-and-over population. People in the first priority group, such as frontline health workers and care home residents, who missed out on a shot (some nursing homes were not vaccinated due to outbreaks, for example) are also being vaccinated now.
A total of 244,000 people in the Balearic Islands have received at least one dose of the vaccine and nearly 100,000 have received the two required for full protection. Some 80,000 Covid-19 vaccines from the four drug companies are expected to arrive this week, with the weekly number of doses administered set to be three times last week’s figure. The region is expected to finish vaccinating the 70-and-over population this week. With respect to the 60-69 age group, 55% have received the first shot. The region has begun making vaccination appointments for those aged between 50 and 59, the largest age group until now, making up 252,389 people.
Between last Monday and Sunday, the Basque region vaccinated 175,341 people, a new weekly record. While the vaccination drive in the Basque Country was one of the slowest to get started, it has now reached cruising speed. According to the regional health chief, Gotzone Sagardi, if the region receives as many doses as it did last week, everyone aged 60 and over will have at least their first shot by Sunday. Starting next week, the region will begin vaccinating the 50-59 age group, which comprises of 342,943 people, according to the Basque Statistics Institute.
The Canary Islands have vaccinated all healthcare workers and care home residents on the archipelago. With respect to adults with serious disabilities who are not in care homes, 91.9% have received the two doses needed for full protection. A total of 87,681 people aged 80 and over have also received both shots.
Cantabria is beginning to vaccinate the 66-69 population in the healthcare areas where the vaccination of the previous age group is now complete. The region is aiming to finish vaccinating the 60-65 age group with the first dose by this week. In the coming days, the Janssen vaccine will be used on adults with disabilities who are not in care homes. The 80-and-over population will receive their second dose, and the vaccination of the 70-79 age group will continue. Most of this demographic will also be receiving their second shot.
Castilla-La Mancha began to vaccinate the 60-69 age group this week. According to premier Emiliano García-Page, starting this week, the region will be in a position to administer an average of 20,000 doses a day. Juan Camacho, the regional public health chief, said Castilla-La Mancha will have 150,000 shots at its disposal this week. The vaccination drive is progressing according to age, as outlined by the Health Ministry.
Castilla y León
The Covid-19 vaccination drive in Castilla y León continues to advance according to age group. More than 95% of the 70-79 age group and more than 50% of the 60-69 population have received at least one dose.
Catalonia will begin vaccinating the 50-59 age group this week, once 84% of the 80-and-overs have received both doses and the 60-69 population is more protected. With respect to the first priority group – care home residents, adults with serious disabilities who are not in homes and frontline health workers – between 95% and 82% have received their first shot. The health department also stepped up the vaccination of National Police and Civil Guard officers, after a court ruled the officers must be inoculated in the same proportion as the Catalan regional police force, the Mossos d’Esquadra.
The health department of Extremadura maintains that the vaccination drive is progressing at “a good speed” and “accelerating” thanks to the arrival of more doses. According to a spokesperson from the Extremaduran government, the region is confident that it will be able to vaccinate 70% of the population by the end of August, but prefers to be “prudent” given the risk of shipment delays and other setbacks. The region is vaccinating the 70-79 age group, the 60-69 population and people with serious illnesses that make them especially vulnerable to Covid-19, such as cancer and transplant patients.
The Galician regional government expects to vaccinate 245,000 residents this week, which is 85,000 more than last week. The vaccination drive will take place in 14 centers in seven healthcare areas, and begin with people aged between 66 and 69. A total of 90,000 people in this age bracket are set to receive the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine between Friday and Saturday. The region is also continuing to vaccinate the over-60s and adults with serious disabilities who are not in care homes with the second dose. More than 390,000 people in Galicia have received both shots, according to the regional health department.
The region is continuing to administer the second dose to people in the 70-79 age group. Thanks to the arrival of more AstraZeneca shots – 1.5 million in all of Spain – La Rioja has also been able to advance with the 60-69 population.
Of all regions in Spain, Madrid is administering the sixth-lowest percentage of vaccines it receives. It is also the region that has vaccinated the lowest number of 60-and-overs with both shots (22.1%) and the region with the third-lowest number of people with the two doses, behind only the Balearic and Canary islands. This week, the region will continue vaccinating the 68-74 population in the Wanda Metropolitano stadium, WiZink Center sporting arena and public hospitals.
This region is continuing to vaccinate the 60-69 age group, people with illnesses that make them vulnerable to Covid-19 and the 70-79 population who have still not received their first shot. It is also administering the second dose of the vaccine to the 80-and-overs.
Navarre began vaccinating the 55-59 population this week, a group that makes up 35,000 people. It will also continue to vaccinate older groups with both the first and second doses.
The Valencian government expects to administer 324,190 doses of the four authorized Covid-19 vaccines this week. Of the Pfizer doses, 108,908 will be administered to the 70-79 age group as second shots, while 74,730 will be administered as the first dose to the 69-72 population. Most of the Moderna vaccines (2,460) will go to the 70-and-over group, who are receiving their second dose. The AstraZeneca shot will be used as the first shot for the 60-69 demographic. A total of 84,280 doses will be administered in mass-vaccination sites and another 26,100 in primary healthcare centers in remote areas. The regional government will distribute 13,000 doses of the single-shot Janssen vaccine in large vaccination centers, which will be used on people aged between 70 and 72.
English version by Melissa Kitson.