CORONAVIRUS

Spain’s regions start to announce plans for vaccinating the under-50s

Regional leaders call for responsibility ahead of first full weekend without state of alarm restrictions

A Covid-19 vaccination site in Pamplona, Navarre.
A Covid-19 vaccination site in Pamplona, Navarre.Jesús Diges / EFE

On Thursday, Spain’s central Health Ministry reported 5,701 new coronavirus infections and added 73 victims to the overall death toll. The 14-day cumulative number of coronavirus cases per 100,000 inhabitants continues to fall, and yesterday was down a further seven points, at 166.32. In total, 3,598,452 coronavirus infections have been confirmed in Spain since the pandemic began, while the official death toll now stands at 79,281.

While the pressure on hospitals and intensive care units (ICUs) is falling, Madrid, the Basque Country and Aragón are still at extreme risk, according to the Health Ministry’s criteria. The three regions have a cumulative incidence above 250 cases per 100,000 inhabitants over 14 days, and more than 25% of their ICU beds occupied by Covid-19 patients.

Also on Thursday, the Health Ministry updated its vaccination strategy. It proposed using the Messenger RNA vaccines – Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech – for pregnant women and those breastfeeding, as soon as the campaign reaches their age groups. What’s more, the authorities will give the go-ahead for the vaccination of vulnerable 12- to 15-year-olds – the disabled or those in situations of high risk – once the European Medicines Agency (EMA) grants authorization. The rest of this age group will not, for now, be prioritized. What’s more, those people born between 1972 and 1981 can now be immunized, according to the ministry, but the vaccines that will be used for this group of 40- to 49-year-olds have not been established.

14% full protection

Just over 14% of the population of Spain has now got the full protection from Covid-19 offered by the vaccines the country is using. A total of 6,716,156 people – 14.2% of citizens to be exact – have either had the two doses of the Oxford-Astrazeneca, Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech medication, or the single shot of the Janssen vaccine.

According to the latest report from the central Health Ministry, 14,555,552 people have so far received at least one dose, which is 30.7% of the population. The country’s regions – which are in charge of their own vaccination campaigns – have administered 21,071,940 doses in total, which is 91.2% of the total they have received.

By age group, nearly all of the country’s over-80s have the full protection offered by the vaccines, while 94% of the 70-79 age group have had at least one dose. More than 80% of the 60-69 group has also had at least one shot. The regions of Andalusia, Asturias, the Balearic Islands, Castilla y León, Extremadura, Valencia, Madrid and Catalonia will all move on to the under-50s in June.

Region by region

In fact, Castilla-La Mancha will be vaccinating the 30-39 age group from the last week of June, according to sources from the regional government. If this comes to pass, it will be the first territory to reach such young ages during the ongoing campaign. The Health Ministry, however, will have to update its vaccination strategy first, setting out which vaccines should be used, and will have to approve this upcoming phase.

Madrid’s deputy health chief, Antonio Zapatero of the PP, called on Friday for “responsibility and prudence” from the public, given that this will be the first full weekend without the state of alarm and coronavirus restrictions such as a nighttime curfew and perimetral lockdowns of regions. “Things are better, but we haven’t beaten Covid,” he said. “This is not over.”

Zapatero also announced today that the regional health authorities will begin to vaccinate the 50-55 age group next week, and added that Madrid was working toward inoculating the homeless and irregular migrants in the region.

Madrid’s general healthcare director, Elena Andradas, also explained on Friday that the region should have finished administering the first dose of the vaccine to the 50-59 age group by June, moving on to the under-50s in that month. “This will mean vaccination coverage of more than 60% of the population,” she added. The 30-39 age group is expected to be called up for vaccination in July.

Herd immunity

In Andalusia, regional premier Juan Manuel Moreno warned that “everything could go out of the window if we are not responsible.” Speaking at a press conference, the PP politician said that the region “is very close to having the herd immunity that we all want to have. This allows us to recover spaces for freedom, movement and economic recovery.” He called for responsibility, in particular among young people, because “without wanting to, they can bring a drama to their home and their loved ones.” He added that some outbreaks had been detected in social meetings and called for everyone to act responsibly.

The regional premier of the northern Navarre region, María Chivite, announced today that the health authorities would focus on the 40-49 age group for the vaccination campaign in the second half of June, provided that “the forecast for vaccine arrivals are met.” This sector of the region’s population, she explained, is “very large,” with 85,000 people, but added that the “speed of vaccination is accelerating,” and that forecasts “are improving.”

Meanwhile, the Spanish government today extended the travel restrictions currently in place for those arriving from India, a country that is being battered by another catastrophic wave of the coronavirus at the current time. An obligatory quarantine for such travelers will remain in place until at least May 29, given the impact of the virus variant detected in that country. The measure might be extended once more after that date. The Indian government confirmed a further 4,000 Covid-19 deaths in the last day on Friday.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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