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VACCINE

What over-70s in Spain need to know about their Covid-19 vaccines

More than 6 million people in Spain over the age of 70 will get the Covid-19 vaccine from March onwards, as part of the latest regional and national government plans.

What over-70s in Spain need to know about their Covid-19 vaccines
Photo: AFP

What’s the latest?

Spain’s Ministry of Health and its regional counterparts are adding the final details to the next phase of the country’s vaccination plan, according to a report in Spanish national daily El País.

This second stage would see around 6.5 million people over the age of 70 in Spain receive the coronavirus vaccine starting in March, a month ahead of earlier estimates.

The rollout would start with people over 90, followed by those over 80 and then over 70s, although the specific time frame for each of these age groups to receive their vaccines is currently being decided. 

Around 380,000 elderly people in care homes in Spain have already received at least their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, together with tens of thousands of health professionals and dependent people who have been inoculated during the first stage of the campaign.

A total of 66.5 percent of all official deaths from Covid-19 in Spain during the second wave have been people aged 80+, even though they only represent 6 percent of the population. 

What will the process involve?

Over 70s in Spain will be contacted by their local health centre. Those who cannot go in person to the hospital will receive a home visit from nursing personnel, as often happens with the flu vaccine campaigns.

“The Health Service of each region will contact the people to be vaccinated, following the established order of prioritisation. It is important not to contact the health system individually about Covid-19 vaccines until then,” Spain's Health Ministry website states.

Will foreigners over 70 be included in Spain’s second stage of Covid-19 vaccines?

Yes. The health ministry has stressed that Spain will not make distinctions between citizens and non-citizens and has pledged to vaccinate everyone in the country, regardless of their legal status and that includes those not registered within the social security system as well as ‘illegal' immigrants and the homeless.

“All those living in Spain will be able to receive the vaccination against the virus as the campaign unrolls. Vaccination is universal, it includes all people,” insisted a Health Ministry spokesman.

Find out more here.

Are things likely to go according to plan?

If the first stage of Spain’s Covid-19 vaccine campaign is anything to go on, perhaps not quite.

Spain got off to a very slow start to its Pfizer vaccine rollout over the Christmas period due to the holidays, organisational hiccups and large regional discrepancies, but over the month of January the rate of vaccination has sped up.

More than one million doses have been administered and 76.2 percent of the available Pfizer and the newly available Moderna vaccines have now been used. That’s in stark contrast to the first week of vaccinations, when the national average stood at a lowly 11 percent.

According to Health Ministry data from January 20th, all of Spain’s regions have now used at least 58 percent of the doses they’ve received, with Cantabria, the Canary Islands, the Valencia region and Galicia proving the most efficient regions with rates over 86 percent.

The rollout of the second Covid vaccine needed for immunisation is now firmly underway, and although it seems everything is going smoother, there are reports that thousands of doses are being lost because the wrong syringes are being used and that not enough doses are being delivered to reach the 70,000 inoculations a day target

Who will be next?

Next in line will most likely be younger people in a high risk group due to health conditions, according to the head of Spain’s Vaccination Society Amós García Rojas.

They would be followed by around eight million people who are deemed essential workers (including 5.3 million more if teachers are included).

When will they get their vaccine? Everything will depend on the vaccines made available in the coming months and if organisational and distribution problems at both a national and EU level are ironed out.

Although it remains largely forecast-based, this calculator created by a Spanish physician offers people in Spain the option of seeing when they’re likely to have the Covid-19 vaccine made available to them, based on their age, job and other conditions (calculator on left hand side of website).

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COVID-19

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.

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