A third Covid-19 vaccine dose will, for now, only be administered in Spain to people with compromised immune systems. That’s the recommendation that was made on Wednesday both by the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) as well as the group of experts that is advising the Spanish government. According to Health Minister Carolina Darias, the proposal will have to be voted on next week by the Public Health Commission, which is made up of the Health Ministry and the country’s regional authorities.
The ECDC has found that a third dose of a vaccine is not necessary for the general population, given that the two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Oxford-AstraZeneca medications (or one in the case of the Janssen vaccine) are sufficient to offer high protection against hospitalization or death caused by the coronavirus. “The vaccines board agrees with this position,” Darias stated on Wednesday, speaking to reporters after a meeting of the Inter-Territorial Council of the National Health System (CISNS), which also brings together the central Health Ministry and the regions.
Sources from the Health Ministry have explained that the target population for a third dose will be a small group of people with very specific pathologies
The group of experts has for weeks now been debating the issue and seeking an exact definition for “immunosuppressed people.” Marcos López de Hoyos, the president of the Spanish Immunology Society, explained that there is no fixed definition, given that the immune system can be weakened for a number of reasons, including age. “The over-80s suffer from what is called immunosenescence,” he said, which means that their bodies do not adequately respond to attacks by pathogens.
Darias did not go into further detail on Wednesday, and cited transplant recipients as an example. Sources from the Health Ministry have explained that the target population for a third dose will be a small group of people with very specific pathologies.
The ECDC has stated that there needs to be more solid data regarding a third dose for the general population. “Knowledge gaps are particularly related to the appropriate correlate of protection to consider for the different population groups and the time from primary vaccination series until a booster dose should be given, and duration of immunity according to e.g. different age and risk groups, vaccine product, dosing interval, variant of concern (VOC), and homologous/heterologous schedule,” it said in a technical report.
Countries such as France have been administering booster shots to people with compromised immune systems for months now, and, along with Germany and the United Kingdom, is planning to do the same for the general population above a certain age. Israel is already giving a third injection to the over-50s, despite there not yet being any scientific consensus on its effectiveness.
Sports venues to increase capacity
Yesterday saw Spain reach its target of fully vaccinating 70% of the population against Covid-19. On the same day, the Health Ministry and the regions opted to take another step toward what was normal life before March 2020. Sources from the Inter-Territorial Council of the National Health System confirmed to EL PAÍS that soccer and basketball stadiums will be able to increase their capacity to 60% in open spaces and 40% in closed spaces, at the same time as the regions are deescalating other coronavirus restrictions in their territories. This means, for example, that up to 60,000 people will be able to enter Camp Nou (above), Barcelona F.C.’s stadium, or 26,000 in Sevilla’s stadium. The increase in capacity will be applied to top-flight La Liga and the Second Division.
The agreement comes after these capacities were fixed at 40% in open venues and 30% in indoor spaces around a month ago. That was when Spain was at the peak of the fifth wave of the pandemic, with a 14-day cumulative number of coronavirus cases per 100,000 inhabitants of 633. On Wednesday, that figure had fallen to 221 as part of a downward trend that began at the end of July.
The measures will be in place until September 30, when the national government and the regions will meet once again to reevaluate the situation and potentially increase capacities once more depending on the progress of the pandemic.
English version by Simon Hunter.