With one in five people aged between 50 and 59 having received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, the Spanish government is now looking at the next age group in line for their shots. This will be the 40-49 demographic, who will begin to be vaccinated in June. That’s according to Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, who spoke in general terms about vaccinating the under-50s at the opening of the IV Ibero-American Congress of the Ibero-American Business Alliance Council (Ceapi) on Monday.
“Today [Monday] we are going to have more than seven million people with complete protection and 15 million with one dose, meaning that once most citizens aged 70 to 79 have complete protection in May, the mass vaccination of the under-50s will begin in June,” said Sánchez.
Starting in June, Spain will receive 2.7 million Pfizer doses a week, which will enable the mass vaccination of the 40-49 age group
Most of Spain’s regions – which are in charge of the vaccination drive as well as controlling the pandemic in their territories – have already announced plans to vaccinate the 40-49 group in June. Indeed, regional authorities in Castilla-La Mancha have said that they will start administering the first dose of the vaccine to the 30-39 population before July, even though this group has not yet been included in the national vaccination strategy.
In the remaining weeks of May, people in their seventies will receive the second dose of the Covid-19 vaccine needed for full protection. More than half of this age group have already received both shots. Of the Covid-19 vaccines being used – Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Oxford-AstraZeneca and Janssen – only the latter requires just one dose for full protection.
The vaccination of people in their sixties will also continue in May. This group is receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine, which has been restricted to the 60-69 population due to concerns over rare blood clot cases in younger patients. The second shot of this vaccine must be delivered between six and 12 weeks after the first. Some people in this age group are also receiving the Janssen vaccine, although in much smaller numbers.
To ensure the vaccination drive continues at a good speed, there will be some overlap between age groups. In other words, the 50-59 population will start to receive their first shot as the vaccination of the older demographics is completed. For the 50-59 age group, the Pfizer, Moderna and Janssen vaccines will be used. A total of 410,400 Janssen doses have so far arrived in Spain. The pharmaceutical firm, which is a subsidiary of the US drug company Johnson & Johnson, has promised to deliver 5.5 million shots in this quarter, but neither the government nor the company have explained when or how quickly this will happen. The arrival of the Janssen doses will be key to determining the speed of the inoculation of the over-50s.
For people aged between 40 and 49, only the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines – which both use RNA messenger technology – have been authorized so far. Like AstraZeneca, the Janssen vaccine has also been linked to rare cases of thrombosis, although at a lower incidence rate. In both cases, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) considers the risk to be extremely low – one serious case per million doses – and that the benefits of vaccination against Covid-19 greatly outweigh the risks.
The vaccination drive in Spain has been largely reliant on the vaccine from Pfizer, which has delivered more doses to the country than any other pharmaceutical by a large margin. As of May, Spain has been receiving 1.7 million Pfizer doses a week – a figure that will rise to 2.7 million in June, which will enable the mass vaccination of the 40-49 age group to begin.
Speaking on Monday, Sánchez also announced that Spain will start to use the European Union’s “Digital Green Certificate” – popularly known as the Covid-19 passport – before July. This document, in principle, will facilitate travel in the EU by allowing vaccinated tourists to visit the country without having to quarantine or take a diagnostic test. The measure is also set to indicate whether the bearer has tested negative for the coronavirus or recently had the virus.
English version by Melissa Kitson.