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With vacations slowing immunization drive, Spain has more vaccine doses in storage than available recipients

The country’s regions have an excess supply of five million shots, practically twice as many as two weeks ago

Teenagers line up to get vaccinated in Valencia.
Teenagers line up to get vaccinated in Valencia.Jorge Gil (Europa Press)
Oriol Güell

During the month of August, Spain has been experiencing an unheard-of situation since the Covid-19 vaccination campaign began at the end of 2020. Right now, there are more vaccine doses being stored than there are available arms to inject them into. This excess of supply has seen the number of shots sitting in storage rise to 4,795,909, according to the latest report published on Thursday by the central Health Ministry. That is 1.4 million more than there were just a week ago and practically double the 2.4 million that there were two weeks ago.

Two factors explain this situation. The first is the increase in the number of shots that Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are delivering every week to Spain. This week, the number was in excess of 3.6 million doses compared to the just over two million doses that arrived in July. The second is the fall in the number of shots being administered, which has gone from the nearly four million every seven days registered in the first half of July to the current level of just over two million.

Of the regions, Madrid, Catalonia and the Balearic Islands are administering the lowest percentage of the doses received

“The fall in the rhythm has been clear, although for now, it doesn’t seem to be worrying because it can mostly be attributed to vacations and not to an increase in vaccine rejection, and this should normalize in September,” explains Amós García, the president of the Spanish Vaccinology Association (AEV). This expert also cites other variables, the influence of which cannot be properly calibrated until the vacation season is over. “There is a collective of people who have doubts about the vaccines and this is something that is happening more in the under-40s, who are being vaccinated right now,” García explains. “They are in good health and they have a lower perception of risk. This is a collective that needs to be listened to and must be informed.”

Other population groups that the experts point to are the so-called “apathetics,” who are uninterested in the campaign; young people who cannot yet get vaccinated because they have just had a Covid-19 infection; those who would prefer to avoid the injections because they think that they already benefit from the vaccination protection among others; and those groups who, for personal or social reasons, have greater difficulties accessing the healthcare system. The available data shows that vaccine rejection in Spain continues to be very small and is under 3%.

Despite this slowdown, Spain is still a leading country in terms of the speed of its vaccination campaign, according to Oxford University’s Our World in Data website.

The differences between the country’s regions are still pronounced when it comes to their capacity to administer the doses that are sent to them each week by the Health Ministry. In recent months, those at the top of the table have been Andalusia, Asturias, Extremadura and Galicia, which have been several points above the national average week after week. By Wednesday, the four had administered more than 97% of the received doses, compared to the Spanish average of 93%.

At the other end of the table currently are Madrid, Catalonia and the Balearic Islands. The former has been lagging behind for months now, and on Wednesday had barely injected 88% of received doses, meaning that it has 1.3 million shots in storage.

The fall in the rhythm has been clear, although for now, it doesn’t seem to be worrying because it can mostly be attributed to vacations and not to an increase in vaccine rejection
Amós García, president of the Spanish Vaccinology Association

Catalonia and the Balearics, meanwhile, began July at levels similar to the national average but in recent weeks have seen a fall in the number of people coming for their vaccines. By Wednesday, the Catalan regional government had administered 87% of received doses, and the Balearic government 86%. Catalonia had 1.4 million doses in storage this Wednesday.

A spokesperson announced that the Catalan government had been expecting “a fall in the rhythm of vaccination this August due to vacations and the fact that the age groups with lower percentages are young people, who have a false sense of security and are prioritizing their vacations over the vaccination.” The Catalan government this week began a “campaign to accelerate the vaccination and to reach the month of September with the highest possible percentage of the population protected.”

The Madrid region, meanwhile, pointed to the fact that in recent weeks it has received a greater number of “extra” vaccine shots, which is to compensate for changes in the distribution system. This could have had an effect on the fall in percentages, it claims. The regional authorities added that “it has been one of the regions that has administered most doses compared to those received, reaching more than 97% on some days and with an average above 95%.” Madrid also pointed to the fact that it has vaccinated a higher percentage of the over-40 population than the national average: 72.8% compared to 72.5%.

LATEST FIGURES

The latest figures from the Spanish Health Ministry show that the central government has delivered a total of 67,461,422 Covid-19 vaccine doses to the regions. Of these, 62,665,513 have been administered, which is 92.9%.


The last report shows that 35,269,276 people in Spain have received one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, which is 74.3% of the population.


The number of people with the full protection offered by the vaccines – i.e. two doses in the case of the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines, and one for the single-shot Janssen medication – currently stands at 30,565,129, which is 64.4% of the population.


The Spanish prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, had set a target of immunizing 70% of the total population of the country by the end of August, but the slowdown in the rhythm of the campaign – which most experts attribute to the vacation season – means that this objective is likely to be missed.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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