The Covid-19 vaccination drive in Spain continues to progress at a good pace. According to the latest Health Ministry report, more than 60% of the population is fully vaccinated. This makes it the country with the highest share of completely immunized people out of the world’s 50 most populated countries after Canada, according to Our World In Data, a website run by Oxford University.
Nine in 10 people aged 40 and over are fully vaccinated, according to the latest figures, and the focus now is on reaching out to people who have not yet got their shots. In most regions – which are in charge of the vaccination drive as well as controlling the pandemic in their territories – all of the 12-and-over population are able to make an appointment to get vaccinated. A Covid-19 vaccine has not yet been approved for children under the age of 12.
How the immunization drive progresses in the next three weeks will determine whether Spain reaches the goal of having 70% of the population fully vaccinated by September
Spain’s Basque Country, the Canary Islands, Murcia, the Balearic Islands, Navarre and Aragón have been vaccinating the 12-and-over population for some time, while Andalusia, Madrid, Catalonia, Extremadura, La Rioja and some provinces of Castilla y León started this week. Valencia, meanwhile, is targeting people who did not get their shots when it was their turn. In a bid to reach this group, the region is sending SMS messages with suggested dates for vaccination appointments. Galicia and Asturias are vaccinating teenagers by descending age, but have not yet reached children aged 12.
The combination of summer vacations – with many people away – and the arrival of 15 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccine means that some regions have more shots than people to administer them to. The Basque Country, for example, has 57,000 vaccination appointments available until September, and is asking young people to fill these spots.
Murcia is in a similar situation, with 30,000 free spots. A spokesperson from the regional health department said the premier of Murcia, Fernando López Miras, had reminded the public of “the importance of vaccination with the goal of immunizing the entire population as soon as possible with the doses available.” The spokesperson added that young people are responding well to the callout, with 40% of the 12-19 age group vaccinated. In Galicia, the self-appointment system crashed due to the high demand from the 16-22 population. The 25,000 appointments were snapped up on Saturday in just seven hours.
Nearly three million doses in a week
Last week, 2.9 million doses were administered in Spain, more than a million more than the previous week, which was set back by the lower availability of Covid-19 vaccines in July. But as more shots arrive in August, more doses are being administered. It is not yet known whether Spain will be able to reach the level it did in June, when more than four million doses were being administered every week.
It is a difficult goal to achieve given that more than 60% of the population is already fully vaccinated and many people are traveling for summer vacations. Jaime Jesús Pérez, the vice president of the Spanish Vaccinology Association, explained to EL PAÍS earlier this month that even if the response from all age groups is strong, when 50% of the younger demographic is vaccinated, the speed of the drive begins to slow.
In other countries, such as Germany, the United States, France and Italy, the immunization drive began to stall when around half the population was fully vaccinated. In Spain, which has traditionally been very accepting of vaccines, this has not happened yet. Indeed, the country is on the verge of overtaking Israel, one of the pioneers, where 62.3% of the population is fully vaccinated.
How the immunization drive progresses in the next three weeks will determine whether the Spanish government reaches its goal of having 70% of the population fully vaccinated by September. But it will be difficult for Spain to exceed this threshold, taking into account that no vaccine has so far been approved for the under-12s, who account for 11% of the population, and that many people either do not want to be vaccinated or can’t for health reasons.
When the 70% goal was set, it was believed that this would enable Spain to reach herd immunity, i.e. the point when so many people are protected against the virus that it cannot spread and ends up disappearing. But according to many scientists, the spread of more contagious strains of the coronavirus, such as the delta variant, means that this figure needs to be much higher – more than 90%. For this reason, both virologists and epidemiologists are now talking about controlling the pandemic so that there are few cases that are mostly mild, rather than group immunity that would eliminate the virus.
With reporting by Ferran Bono, Juan Navarro, Eva Saiz, Ana Pantaleoni, Lucía Bohórquez and Sonia Vizoso.
English version by Melissa Kitson.