Spain approves booster Covid-19 shots for over-18 population

The measure, reached by the central Health Ministry and regional authorities, will affect more than 12 million people

A health worker administers a third Covid-19 vaccine shot in Seville.
A health worker administers a third Covid-19 vaccine shot in Seville.PACO PUENTES (EL PAÍS)

Spain’s Public Health Commission, which is made up of the central Health Ministry and the country’s regions, has decided to roll out a third Covid-19 vaccine dose to the entire population aged over 18 in a bid to combat the ongoing sixth wave of the coronavirus pandemic. That was decided in a meeting held this morning, and later announced by Health Minister Carolina Darias.

In December of last year, the Commission opted to offer the booster shots to the 40 to 59 age group, having already made them available to older citizens. Today’s move means that the 18 to 39 group are now included in the campaign.

The ministry and the regions also agreed to “reduce the interval” between the last dose and the booster shot “from the six months established to five months,” Darias announced, calling on people of all ages to get their shots because “vaccines save lives.”

More than 12 million residents of Spain are aged between 12 and 39 years old, although a small number of this group have already received their booster shots given that they belong to collectives such as healthcare personnel.

During the campaign in Spain, people in their 20s and 30s have been most resistant to getting vaccinated. According to data from the Health Ministry released on Wednesday, one in every five people in these age groups has opted not to get vaccinated until now, in contrast to those in their 40s, 88.5% of whom are fully vaccinated, and including the younger 12 to 19 age group, where the figure is 87.2%.

The vaccination of people in their 30s began at the end of June and the beginning of July, depending on the region, and for the 20-29 group a month later. This means that for the first people in these age ranges who have been vaccinated, five months have passed since the second dose and they can receive the third, according to the new strategy agreed this Thursday. This is the time frame set for the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna mRNA vaccines that were administered to practically everyone in these age groups.

The booster shots will also be one of these two vaccines, although according to the strategy they will not necessarily be the same as that given the first time around.

After today’s decision, the number of people eligible for the third dose in Spain will rise to 39.1 million, which is 82.5% of the total population of Spain. More than three million youngsters aged between 12 and 17 will remain outside of the booster campaign for now, while children aged five to 11 are currently in the process of receiving their first dose across the country. No Covid-19 vaccines have yet been approved for children under five.

While the administration of the booster shots is moving along at a decent pace – a million people have had theirs in the last week and more than 85% of the over-60s already have had one – Spain has been somewhat left behind compared to neighboring countries, something that has also happened in Portugal. This is in contrast to the progress made during the initial vaccination campaign, when the two countries on the Iberian peninsula were at the top of the tables in the EU.

The reason for this is that in Spain it took longer to start administering the third dose to the under-60s. France and Germany, for example, began to do so in November for all over-18s.

According to the Our World in Data website, Spain administered 35 booster shots for every 100 inhabitants last Tuesday. This figure is considerably lower than Denmark’s 55, Belgium’s 46, Germany’s 44, Italy’s 40 and France’s 39. And this is despite the fact that the latter countries have considerably bigger groups of the population who are anti-vaccination than Spain does.

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