Spain is aiming to fully vaccinate 70% of the population in August, a goal it is on track to reach if the current pace of the Covid-19 immunization drive is maintained. For this to happen, hundreds of thousands of people will need to continue to get vaccinated every day. The focus now is on administering the first shots to the under-30s, and completing the immunization of older age groups. A total of 76.7% of the 40-49 population have had their second dose, 38.5% of the 30-39 age group is fully vaccinated and half of the 20-29 demographic has had at least one dose. The problem now that could slow down the immunization drive is not a lack of doses, but rather a lack of people to receive them.
Last Friday, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez announced that Spain would receive an additional 3.4 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and one million Moderna shots in August. This means that Spain will have around 15 million doses from both vaccines to administer in August. The country is also expecting more shots from the single-dose Janssen vaccine. The target population for this medication, however, is increasingly small: its use is restricted to the over-40s, 92% of whom have already received at least one shot.
Spain continues to be one of the countries with the highest share of people who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19. A total of 57.2% are fully immunized, while 67.8% have had at least one shot. Out of the world’s 50 most populated countries, only Canada (59.4%) has fully vaccinated a higher percentage of the population, according to data from the website Ourworldindata, which is run by Oxford University. In most Western countries, the vaccination drive has begun to slow as the percentage of the fully immunized population reached 50%. Indeed, according to Ourworldindata, Spain has now overtaken the United States (49.26%) and the United Kingdom (56.4%), which were initially leading the vaccination drive. It is even close to overtaking Israel, where the share of fully vaccinated people has been stuck at close to 60% for weeks.
The risk now is that the same thing will happen in Spain in August. On the one hand, many people travel for summer vacations this month, which could interrupt the vaccination drive. And on the other, the unvaccinated population is becoming increasingly small and is largely made up of young people, who are less at risk of developing a serious case of Covid-19. When the immunization drive was opened up to the under-40s, the initial response was strong, but it now appears to be difficult to maintain the same pace.
Jaime Jesús Pérez, the vice president of the Spanish Vaccinology Association, explains that the speed of the vaccine rollout starts to slow when around 50% of the younger age groups have had the first dose. While this is to be expected, he encourages people to continue to get vaccinated. “All these [vaccination] centers that have been set up have to have a closure date and to keep them open we need people to go in massive numbers,” he explained.
Ignacio Rosell, the secretary of the expert committee on how to control the pandemic in Castilla y León, believes that it is normal to expect the vaccination drive will drop off in August. “The very circumstances [of August] mean that people are not going to get vaccinated because they are not in their place of residence and will decide to do it when they return. This is going to slow down the drive a bit, but they will most surely do it when they return and we expect to have a high percentage of the young population vaccinated by the time the next school term begins,” he said.
Sources from the Basque health department also point out that the vaccine rollout has been affected by the fifth wave of coronavirus infections. Most of these cases have been recorded among the 16-29 age group, who have been unable to get vaccinated given that – under Spain’s vaccination strategy – a person who has recently had the virus must wait six months before receiving their shots. As a result, it has become difficult to completely fill vaccination schedules.
Most of Spain’s regions – which are in charge of the vaccination drive as well as controlling the pandemic in their territories – are immunizing both adolescents and the 20-29 age group. But there are large differences between each territory. In the Balearic Islands, 45.3% of the 12-19 population have at least one dose, the highest figure of all regions. In the Canary Islands, Catalonia, Aragón and the North African exclave cities of Ceuta and Melilla, this figure is more than 20%. In contrast, regions such as Cantabria, Castilla y León, Valencia, Extremadura, Galicia, La Rioja and Murcia are still immunizing the older population and less than 5% of the 12-19 age group have had their first shot.
Incidence rate continues to fall
While the vaccination drive progresses, coronavirus transmission rates continue to fall, albeit slowly. According to the latest Health Ministry report, released Monday evening, the 14-day cumulative number of cases per 100,000 inhabitants now stands at 673, a drop of 27 points since last week. But while the incidence rate remains on a downward trend, “the figure continues to be high,” warned María José Sierra from the Health Ministry’s Coordination Center for Health Alerts (CCAES). According to Sierra, the fall in coronavirus cases has not yet been reflected in hospitalizations: both admissions to normal wards and intensive care units (ICUs), as well as Covid-19 fatalities, continue to rise, although at a slower rate than last week.
The health official explained that these figures are likely to fall in a few week’s time. Normally it takes between 10 to 14 days for a drop in infections to be reflected in a corresponding drop in hospital admissions for Covid-19. Although the incidence rate is falling among the under-30 population, who have been hardest hit by the fifth wave, the same cannot be said for the over-30 age group, who are more at risk of requiring hospitalization.
With reporting by Ferran Bono, Pedro Gorospe, Caridad Bermeo, Juan Navarro, Eva Saiz and Guillermo Vega.
English version by Melissa Kitson.