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VACCINE

IN STATS: How the AstraZeneca suspension is affecting Spain’s Covid vaccine rollout 

Spain’s vaccination campaign continues despite the temporary suspension of the AstraZeneca inoculation over blood clot fears, but the rollout and the target of 70 percent immunity by the end of summer are being shaken up. These stats will help you understand why.  

IN STATS: How the AstraZeneca suspension is affecting Spain's Covid vaccine rollout 
PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU / AFP

“We have decided to temporarily suspend (use of the AstraZeneca vaccine) as a precaution for at least the next two weeks,” Spanish Health Minister Carolina Darias told reporters on Monday, following similar moves by France, Germany and Italy.

The Spanish government has chosen to wait until the European Medicines Agency (EMA) issues a ruling on whether there is a link between the vaccine and thrombosis cases. 

Spanish authorities claim that the temporary suspension will not affect the country’s vaccine calendar, but there is evidence to suggest that a rollout that appeared to be gathering pace does face a setback now as a result of the AstraZeneca hold up.

READ ALSO:

Spain suspends use of AstraZeneca vaccine for at least a fortnight

AstraZeneca benefits outweigh risks, EMA says as EU orders 10 million more Pfizer doses

The following stats explain where Spain stands in its vaccination campaign and whether the object of vaccinating 70 percent by the end of the summer is less achievable now.

  • As of March 16th, Spain’s 17 regions had so far administered 5.7 million doses. 

  • A total of 1.7 million people have been fully vaccinated after receiving both doses, making up only 3.6 percent of Spain’s population. 

  • According to new Spanish Health Ministry data , 932,704 Covid-19 vaccines were administered from March 8th to 14th, 304,705 of which were AstraZeneca inoculations.

  • On average, 30,000 to 40,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine were being administered on a daily basis in Spain before the suspension. 

  • As a result of the temporary AstraZeneca suspension, Spain’s vaccine rollout could slow down by 33 percent for the next fortnight using last week’s rate of inoculation as a measure. 

  • The agreed 15-day wait for the vaccine to be put on hold, will mean Spain will administer 400,000 to 500,000 fewer Covid-19 vaccine doses over that period. 

  • Spain had administered 939,534 AstraZeneca doses out of the 1.7 million it has received, meaning that around 760,000 are piled up and waiting to be administered. This also means there are almost 940,000 people in Spain that don’t know at this point what will happen with their second dose. 

  • The Spanish government was aiming to vaccinate 70 percent of its population by the end of the summer. But prior to the AstraZeneca suspension, Spain would only have been able to reach that figure (equalling 32.9 million people) by November if it vaccinated at its fastest daily speed so far – 240,000 inoculations in one day, achieved on March 5th. In other words, it would take 250 days to vaccinate 70 percent of the population if things go according to plan.

  • The silver lining is that the newly approved Jannsen Covid-19 vaccine is scheduled to arrive in Spain in mid-April. The latest EU estimates are that 200 million doses of this inoculation will be distributed throughout the bloc throughout 2021, 20 million of which will correspond to Spain. This could ensure that despite a drop in the rate of inoculation in Spain for what remains of March, the country’s vaccine campaign could be bolstered again very soon.

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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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