Coronavirus: Spain is ‘100 days away from group immunity,’ says PM

Pedro Sánchez expects that 70% of adults will be vaccinated against Covid-19 by August 18

Spanish PM Pedro Sánchez in Athens on Monday.
Spanish PM Pedro Sánchez in Athens on Monday.YANNIS KOLESIDIS (EFE)

After struggling with some of the world’s highest coronavirus infection and death rates since the beginning of the pandemic last year, Spain will achieve something resembling herd immunity 100 days from now, according to remarks made on Monday by Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez.

“We are just 100 days away from achieving group immunity, that is, from getting 70% of the Spanish population vaccinated and thus immunized,” said the Spanish leader of the Socialist Party (PSOE) during an official visit to Greece.

This means that by August 18 the government would have reached its stated goal of ensuring that 70% of adults are vaccinated. So far, Spain has administered 19 million doses and 28% of the population has received at least one dose, while 12.6% have completed the treatment.

This is the first time that the Sánchez administration has come up with a specific date, after repeatedly pledging to have 70% of adults vaccinated by late summer. “We are starting to overcome this calamity,” said the prime minister.

The vaccination campaign ran into several hurdles during the first weeks: there were shipment delays, and the administration of some vaccines was temporarily suspended while European authorities investigated reports of blood clotting.

But the rollout has hit cruising speed in recent weeks, and the government’s first goal of vaccinating five million people by the first week of May has been met. More doses were injected during the month of April than during the first three months of the year combined: 8.33 million compared with 8.04 million.

The 80-and-over age group is almost completely vaccinated, and regional authorities – which are in charge of the vaccination drive – are now focusing on the second dose for the 70-79 group and the first dose for the 60-69 group. A few regions, including Madrid, have also begun giving shots to people under 60.

Plan B or Plan C

Pablo Casado at a European People's Party event in Madrid on Monday.
Pablo Casado at a European People's Party event in Madrid on Monday. ALBERTO ORTEGA (Europa Press)

“The figures are an invitation to optimism,” said Sánchez. But opposition parties and regional governments could be said to be feeling less than optimistic a day after Spain’s state of alarm expired, giving way to legal uncertainty as to the best way to contain the spread of the coronavirus now that the constitutional framework underpinning measures such as the curfew or the lockdowns has been lifted.

The central government has placed the onus on the Supreme Court, which will receive appeals from regional governments if the latter try to introduce restrictions but have them struck down by lower courts. The high tribunal will have to unify criteria at a confusing time when some regional courts are allowing restrictions while others are not.

Also on Monday, the main opposition Popular Party (PP) offered to talk with the government about the possibility of making legal changes to help the regions manage coronavirus restrictions now that the national state of alarm has been lifted.

The PP is proposing an alternative plan that it registered in Congress a month ago. “It’s very easy. The PP has registered a bill and it could go into effect in 15 days,” said PP Secretary General Teodoro García Egea. “The government doesn’t even have to do the work, it’s already registered and we’ve consulted with the main jurists in the country.”

PP president Pablo Casado has blamed the government for the large crowds seen across Spain on Sunday night as the state of alarm expired. “We are very saddened to see crowded scenes on the streets and the only person to blame is Pedro Sánchez, because he refused to approve a pandemics law as we’ve been asking him to do for a year,” said Casado in Madrid. “If there is no Plan B right now and we’ve moved to Plan C, as in C for chaos, the only blame lies with the government of Spain. The government of Spain’s absolute lack of responsibility is costing lives.”

English version by Susana Urra.

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