Spain’s Galicia to make Covid vaccine compulsory and fine those who refuse it up to €60K

The regional government of Galicia in northwestern Spain has announced that the Covid-19 vaccine will be compulsory for all its 2.7 million inhabitants, and that fines for those who don’t follow the rules will go from €1,000 to €60,000.

Spain's Galicia to make Covid vaccine compulsory and fine those who refuse it up to €60K
Photo: AFP

Galicia’s regional president Alberto Nuñez Feijóo made the announcement at a press conference on Tuesday, but his government has been working on passing the draft law since last November.

Now that it is set to be approved with a majority in the Galician parliament, the regional government will consider the “unjustified” refusal of anyone who is called up to have the Covid-19 vaccine a “minor offense”, resulting in a penalty of €1,000 to €3,000.

However, in cases where “they may pose a risk or serious harm to the health of the population”, it will be considered a serious offence and the penalty will range from €3,000 to €60,000.

This could be interpreted as being a situation where someone who has refused to get the vaccine is then found to be infected with Covid-19, but the lack of detail in the official legislation means it is subject to interpretation.

Spain’s Health Ministry has so far said that the Covid-19 inoculation shouldn’t be obligatory, but the Spanish government did decide back in December it would keep a record of those who refused it.

Galicia, which currently has an average infection rate of 216 per 100,000 inhabitants over 14 days (below the national average of 251/100,000) is the first region in Spain to make the Covid-19 vaccine obligatory.

The website Lexisla con Nós (Legislate with Us), which serves as a portal where the Galician government collects suggestions from citizens, has reportedly been flooded with hundreds of comments by critics of the legislation, many of whom are referring to it as “dictatorial”.

According to Spanish medical news site Redacción Medica, the legislation also has a clause for “very serious offences” which would see fines skyrocket up to a maximum of €600,000 for situations such as a health professional skipping quarantine.

Feijóo, who is head of the right-wing PP government in the rainswept region, is the only regional president who has been openly in favour of making the Covid-19 vaccine mandatory.

The measure has previously been dubbed a “judicial mess” that “takes away rights” from citizens by Galician Nationalist Party spokesperson Ana Pontón.

“Feijóo’s draft law treats Galicians like the usual suspects who have to be watched and penalised,” Pontón argued, adding that the text contained the word “penalty” 71 times.

More than 40 percent of Spaniards would prefer not to be vaccinated at all with approved drugs, according to a survey by the Centre for Social Research in Spain in December.

But vaccine acceptance may have grown since then, as another survey in early February by Spanish consumer rights group OCU found more than half of Spaniards want to get the vaccine as soon as possible. 


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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.