Covid-19 vaccination drive in Spain: 45% of population has had at least one dose

Nearly one third of the 40-49 age group have received the first vaccine shot, and the government is aiming to have 15 million people fully vaccinated by the end of this week

Vaccination drive in Valencia.
Vaccination drive in Valencia.Manuel Bruque (EFE)

A total of 31.6% of people in the 40-49 age group in Spain have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine. Of Spain’s 17 regions – which are in charge of the vaccination drive – only Madrid, the Basque Country and Castilla y León have immunized fewer than 20% of this demographic. Since the inoculation campaign began last December, Spain has administered more than 33 million doses, and 45.3% of the entire population – 21.4 million people – have received at least one shot (more than 53% of the over-16s – see graph below).

The Spanish government’s next target is to have 15 million people fully vaccinated by the end of this week. The previous two goals – to have 10 million people fully vaccinated by the first week of June and five million by the first week of May – were both met on schedule. But it will be a rush to reach the next objective: as of Monday, fewer than 13 million were completely protected against Covid-19.

Fernando Simón, the director of the Health Ministry’s Coordination Center for Health Alerts (CCAES), said on Monday that 960,215 doses were administered last weekend. More than 53% of the target population – the over-16s – have received at least one dose. “Nearly a million shots were administered this weekend. These are figures that indicate the clearly favorable progress of our drive,” said Simón. “A little more than half a million people have been fully vaccinated since last Friday.”

The Spanish Health Ministry is now working on new guidelines to ensure that citizens who request it can get vaccinated outside of the region they live in. This is a bid to help maintain the pace of the vaccination drive and prevent possible setbacks due to summer, when many people travel on vacation, meaning vaccination appointments may be missed. “It is not protocol, it is establishing rules on what has to happen so that it [the vaccination] is registered. Fundamentally it is a relatively simple process: a person takes out a temporary health card and this is easily recorded,” said Simón.

In the meantime, the regions are focusing on vaccinating the 40-59 age group in primary healthcare centers and in large vaccination sites. In Aragón, regional authorities are scheduling appointments for people who turn 43 and 42 this year, while in the Basque Country, the drive is open to those who are turning 47. In Madrid, the self-appointment system is available to people turning 48 or more in 2021, although the rest of the 40-49 age group have been sent messages to arrange vaccination appointments in hospitals. And in La Rioja, regional health authorities are rushing to vaccinate this week the 28,000 citizens aged between 45 and 59.

Nearly a million shots were administered this weekend. These are figures that indicate the clearly favorable progress of our drive
Fernando Simón, director of the Health Ministry’s Coordination Center for Health Alerts

Some regions have also turned to the business sector to increase the speed of the vaccination drive. In Valencia, for example, 3,786 doses have been distributed to large companies, whose offices have been acting as vaccination sites since last week. In Andalusia, 39 businesses in the Aerópolis industrial park in Seville have also been helping with the immunization campaign, with 850 company workers aged 40 and over vaccinated between June 10 and 11.

With nearly all over-70s fully protected, the regions are focusing on administering the second dose to the 60-69 population, who are receiving the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. The immunization of this age group is taking longer to complete given that the second shot of the Anglo-Swedish medication must be administered 12 weeks after the first, instead of after between 21 or 28 days, as is the case for the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccine. As a result, only 11% of people aged 60 to 69 are fully vaccinated, compared to the Spanish average of 26%.

Other regions have also begun to vaccinate older age groups who missed out on the first shot. In Galicia, for example, regional authorities have started a drive to immunize 11,000 people aged between 60 and 79 who have not yet been vaccinated, typically because the person had not updated the phone number linked with their health card, meaning they did not receive the call to schedule a vaccination appointment.

In Catalonia, the region has been vaccinating the 40-44 demographic since last week. A total of 86% of the 60-69 age group and 80% of the 50-59 population have received at least one dose of the vaccine – a high level of coverage which is making it difficult for health authorities to administer all the doses received. These data points, however, are slightly below the national average of 92% and 83%, respectively.

Vaccination of under-40s in Andalusia, Canary Islands and Ceuta

The vaccination of the 30-39 age group is expected to get underway in July, but some regions have already made a head start. Andalusia, for example, is scheduling appointments to vaccinate people born in 1985 this week. The calls will be made progressively, beginning with those aged between 39 and 50, and ending on Friday with those aged 36. The North African exclave city of Ceuta has already begun to vaccinate the under-40s, as have El Hierro, La Gomera, La Palma and Lanzarote in the Canary Islands, where the immunization of the 30-39s began last week.

In Navarre, regional health chief Santos Indurain said last Thursday that 50% of residents in the region will soon be fully vaccinated, but that the inoculation of the under-40s will not begin until early to mid-July.

The last update to the government’s vaccination strategy did not contain details on the immunization of the under-40s, but this group is likely to receive the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, which both use RNA messenger technology. The Janssen vaccine, however, has been authorized for vulnerable and hard-to-locate collectives, such as the homeless and irregular immigrants, irrespective of age, given only one shot is required for full protection.

English version by Melissa Kitson.

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