Meet the 106-year-old Spanish abuela who survived two pandemics, a century apart

When Ana del Valle was just a small child she was struck down by the notorious Spanish flu. And survived.

Meet the 106-year-old Spanish abuela who survived two pandemics, a century apart
Photo by Cristian Newman on Unsplash

Now, over a century later and at the grand old age of 106, she has survived another global pandemic.

The grandmother, who will celebrate her 107th birthday in October was among residents at her nursing home in Ronda in Andalusia who tested positive to covid-19 in March.

Her daughter-in-law, Paqui Sánchez, told her local TV station CharryTV in Ronda, about the miraculous recovery.

Pictured above with three of her grandchildren, Ana will turn 107 on October 20th, 2020.

“She is a super granny, a fighter. She has tested negative to her third test for the coronavirus. We were told by the doctors, one day she will die but it won’t today and it won’t be of covid-19”.

In an interview with Spanish news agency Efe, Sánchez, shareddetails about Ana’s experience living through the Spanish flu pandemic that swept the globe in 1918 and claimed somewhere between 17 million to 50 million, and possibly as high as 100 million lives.

“She was a country girl aged about seven and said that at that time everyone in the household had it bad. She went out to collect some milk from a nearby farm and collapsed under an oak tree. Hours later her mother found her with a high fever.”

But she survived and 100 years later, she has become the oldest woman in Spain, possibly even the world, to recover in the latest pandemic.

“We were first told on March 9th that family visits were suspended at the residential home where she has lived since 2012,” explained Sánchez to Efe.

“Ten days later we were informed that all the elderly residents would be tested because several of the carers at the centre were infected.”

On March 20th the family were informed that their relative was among those who had tested positive and would  be transferred to a special unit for care in La Linea.

Last week she was given the all clear and discharged.

She said the family were moved to share the good news story.  “This is a word of encouragement, of reassurance. Do not lose hope,” she said.


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Spain rules out EU’s advice on compulsory Covid-19 vaccination 

Spain’s Health Ministry said Thursday there will be no mandatory vaccination in the country following the European Commission’s advice to Member States to “think about it” and Germany’s announcement that it will make vaccines compulsory in February.

Spain rules out EU's advice on compulsory Covid-19 vaccination 
A Spanish man being vaccinated poses with a custom-made T-shirt showing Spain's chief epidimiologist Fernando Simón striking a 'Dirty Harry/Clint Eastwood' pose over the words "What part of keep a two-metre distance don't you understand?' Photo: José Jordan

Spain’s Health Minister Carolina Darias on Thursday told journalists Covid-19 vaccines will continue to be voluntary in Spain given the “very high awareness of the population” with regard to the benefits of vaccination.

This follows the words of European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen on Thursday, urging Member States to “think about mandatory vaccination” as more cases of the Omicron variant are detected across Europe. 

READ ALSO: Is Spain proving facts rather than force can convince the unvaccinated?

“I can understand that countries with low vaccine coverage are contemplating this and that Von der Leyen is considering opening up a debate, but in our country the situation is absolutely different,” Darias said at the press conference following her meeting with Spain’s Interterritorial Health Council.

According to the national health minister,  this was also “the general belief” of regional health leaders of each of Spain’s 17 autonomous communities she had just been in discussion with over Christmas Covid measures. 

READ MORE: Spain rules out new restrictions against Omicron variant

Almost 80 percent of Spain’s total population is fully vaccinated against Covid-19, a figure which is around 10 percent higher if looking at those who are eligible for the vaccine (over 12s). 

It has the highest vaccination rate among Europe’s most populous countries.

Germany announced tough new restrictions on Thursday in a bid to contain its fourth wave of Covid-19 aimed largely at the country’s unvaccinated people, with outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel speaking in favour of compulsory vaccinations, which the German parliament is due to vote on soon.

Austria has also already said it will make Covid-19 vaccines compulsory next February, Belgium is also considering it and Greece on Tuesday said it will make vaccination obligatory for those over 60.

But for Spain, strict Covid-19 vaccination rules have never been on the table, having said from the start that getting the Covid-19 jabs was voluntary. 

There’s also a huge legal implication to imposing such a rule which Spanish courts are unlikely to look on favourably. 

Stricter Covid restrictions and the country’s two states of alarm, the first resulting in a full national lockdown from March to May 2020, have both been deemed unconstitutional by Spain’s Constitutional Court. 

READ ALSO: Could Spain lock down its unvaccinated or make Covid vaccines compulsory?

The Covid-19 health pass to access indoor public spaces was also until recently consistently rejected by regional high courts for breaching fundamental rights, although judges have changed their stance favouring this Covid certificate over old Covid-19 restrictions that affect the whole population.

MAP: Which regions in Spain now require a Covid health pass for daily affairs?

“In Spain what we have to do is to continue vaccinating as we have done until now” Darias added. 

“Spaniards understand that vaccines are not only a right, they are an obligation because we protect others with them”.

What Spanish health authorities are still considering is whether to vaccinate their 5 to 11 year olds after the go-ahead from the European Medicines Agency, with regions such as Madrid claiming they will start vaccinating their young children in December despite there being no official confirmation from Spain’s Vaccine Committee yet.

READ MORE: Will Spain soon vaccinate its children under 12?

Spain’s infection rate continues to rise day by day, jumping 17 points up to 234 cases per 100,000 people on Thursday. There are now also five confirmed cases of the Omicron variant in the country, one through community transmission.

Hospital bed occupancy with Covid patients has also risen slightly nationwide to 3.3 percent, as has ICU Covid occupancy which now stands at 8.4 percent, but the Spanish government insists these figures are “almost three times lower” than during previous waves of the coronavirus pandemic.