Almost one in five people in Spain are immune to Covid-19, study

Spain's herd immunity to the coronavirus has reached almost 20 percent of the population, according to a study by a prominent Spanish epidemiological institute.

Almost one in five people in Spain are immune to Covid-19, study
Photo: Cesar Manso/AFP

According to the Spanish Epidemiological Society (SEE), 19 percent of the population is immune to coronavirus, a total of 9.7 million people.

The measure is based on a combination of those who have either been vaccinated or have had the illness already and have acquired antibodies to fight the virus.

An estimated 4.7 million people had antibodies from the virus in the most recent study by the research body Carlos III Health Institute.

A further two million people have become immune since autumn and three million people have received the vaccine.

Joan Caylà, a spokesperson for the SEE, told Spanish medical publication Redacción Médica that this figure should ideally reach 70 percent of the population before summer.

This would allow cases of coronavirus to fall, the tourism industry to reopen and the Spanish economy to recover.

Caylà said that those who have had the virus should wait six months until after they are diagnosed before they can receive a vaccination. Those who have not had the virus should be prioritised in the vaccination rollout.


“It makes sense to vaccinate those who have not had Covid first so that the short term results from vaccination will be faster,” Caylà said.

“We know that those who have had the virus, with clinical proof, have immunity for a certain time and so they are not a priority.”

The increase in herd immunity comes after there were more Spanish coronavirus deaths in February than any month since April.

More than 10,000 people died from the virus during February, 15 percent of the total number of deaths during the pandemic.

The largest portion of deaths took place in Madrid, Andalusia, Catalonia, Valencia, Castilla y Leon and Castilla-La Mancha.

However, cases of coronavirus fell throughout the month, from 865 cases per 100,000 residents at the beginning of the month to less than 200 cases per 100,000 residents in the fourteen days to February 26th. 

By Ian Johnston

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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.