CORONAVIRUS

‘Everything pointing to’ need for a third Covid-19 vaccine dose, says Spanish health minister

Speaking during a radio interview, Carolina Darias went further than the official position of regulatory agencies and scientists, also predicting the need for yearly boosters

Spanish Health Minister Carolina Darias.
Spanish Health Minister Carolina Darias.Europa Press

Spanish Health Minister Carolina Darias said on Friday that “everything is pointing to” the need for a third dose of Covid-19 vaccines to be administered to the population, given the new variants of the coronavirus that could reduce the protection already being offered by the existing medication.

Speaking during an interview on the Onda Cero network, the minister stated: “Everything appears to point to the fact that we will have to administer a third dose. Via the [European Union], we have signed up to a contract with Pfizer and Moderna. What needs to be determined is when [the shot will be administered],” she continued.

Darias went even further when asked whether residents of Spain would have to be vaccinated against Covid-19 every year. “Yes, without a doubt,” she replied, before insisting that the current objective is to “continue vaccinating everyone until reaching 100% [of the population], if that is possible.”

The need for a third dose of a Covid-19 vaccine has not, however, been backed by scientific research. For now, the line of the regulatory agencies – the European Medicines Agency and the Food and Drug Administration in the United States – is that all of the vaccines being used in Spain – Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Janssen and Oxford-AstraZeneca – offer protection against all of the known variants of the coronavirus. This is also backed by studies published until now.

People who have been vaccinated can still in some cases contract the virus, but they usually suffer milder symptoms or are asymptomatic. According to data supplied by Darias on Tuesday, 83% of those infected during this fifth wave of the pandemic were not immunized, 11.4% had received a single dose and just 5.5% had the full protection offered by the vaccines.

A spokesperson from the Health Ministry clarified that Darias was talking about “a possibility” of a third dose, an option for which “Spain is prepared.” Any decision, the same spokesperson said, would always be taken according to “the scientific evidence.”

The European Commission closed a deal in May with Pfizer-BioNTech to purchase 900 million doses of their vaccine, along with an option for another 900 million, should a booster shot be necessary.

Among the scientific community, the practically unanimous position right now is that a third shot is not necessary, and that it is still yet to be seen whether SARS-CoV-2 ends up being a seasonal virus – something that could mean a yearly shot is needed. It is also true that the slow pace of vaccination on a global scale – with dozens of countries where not even the most-vulnerable groups have been immunized – increases the chances that the virus continues to mutate, making the current vaccines less effective.

This scenario – which is more or less probable, according to the source – could make a third shot necessary. That said, given it would be to combat a different virus, it might be more appropriate to class this as a new or adapted vaccine, like the ones used each year against the flu.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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