Madrid brings forward second AstraZeneca shot for 60-69 group as more cases of delta variant are detected

According to the deputy health chief, there is already community transmission in the region of this strain, which was first identified in India

Mass vaccination in Madrid's WiZink Center arena in April of this year.
Mass vaccination in Madrid's WiZink Center arena in April of this year.Andrea Comas

The Madrid region announced on Friday that it would be bringing forward the administration of the second shot of the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine for the 60-69 group, given a rise in the number of cases of the so-called “delta” variant of the coronavirus that was first detected in India. According to the deputy healthcare chief, Antonio Zapatero, there is already community transmission of this more infectious strain in the region.

Speaking at a press conference on Friday, Zapatero explained that 18 new cases of the delta variant have been detected in Madrid, “in addition to four last week and some that are still left to be sequenced.” The health chief said that in “six or seven weeks,” the variant “could be the predominant one,” not just in Madrid, but in all of Spain.

“It’s 50% more transmissible than the British one,” Zapatero explained, in reference to the “alpha” strain first detected in England. He added that the delta variant has already rapidly spread throughout the UK. “The most important thing is to finish the vaccination with the second dose among the 60 to 69 group, which is where we are strengthening [the vaccination campaign],” he added.

The health chief said that in “six or seven weeks,” the variant “could be the predominant one,” not just in Madrid, but in all of Spain

Bringing forward the second shot is permitted according to the technical details of the vaccine.

As well as the delta, another “variant of concern” according to Zapatero is B.1.621, which has been dubbed the Colombian strain. In the last week, the health chief explained, “and via the [Madrid] Barajas airport, 17 travelers from Colombia have been confirmed to be positive and with a PCR with a high viral load.

According to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), this variant was first detected in January 2021 in Colombia, and its “principal characteristics are that it has mutations in its spike protein, which are compatible with higher transmissibility,” Zapatero explained, adding: “And likely with a lower response to vaccines.”

In order to speed up the vaccination campaign in Madrid, the regional authorities have opened up the appointment system to the over-48s – the option was only available to the over-50s until now. Those who want an appointment can book it via the region’s healthcare mobile app or at this webpage.

For those people who are due their first vaccine shot but for whom that option does not appear on the appointment system, the regional authorities recommend that they call 900 102 112 to make sure that they are on the necessary database.

Elena Andradas, the general director of Madrid’s public health system, pointed out on Friday at a press conference that the region began this week to immunize the 40-49s. “We have started on the 49 to 46 group, which is around half-a-million people,” she explained. “Around June 20 we will start with the 45-to-40s, who number more than 700,000.” The director estimated that by the end of this month, “by the first week of July and the latest, and provided the supply of vaccines continues,” the first dose will have been administered to this group. Then, at the start of July, injections will commence for the 30-39 group, which is in excess of a million people in Madrid.

Figures for Spain

Last night the central Health Ministry reported 14,004 new coronavirus infections. The unusually high number at this stage of the pandemic was due to an update from the Catalonia region, which added 9,381 cases diagnosed between January 1 and June 6 to its overall totals. According to last night’s report, 133 Covid-19 fatalities were also added to the overall death toll.

The 14-day cumulative number of coronavirus cases per 100,000 inhabitants for Spain as whole, meanwhile, continues to fall. On Thursday it came in at 110.35, a drop of 1.5 points on the previous day. In total, 3,729,458 coronavirus infections have been confirmed in Spain since the pandemic began, and 80,465 people have died after testing positive for Covid-19.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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