‘British Covid strain could be benefiting us’, Spanish health chief

'British Covid strain could be benefiting us', Spanish health chief
Photo: Gabriel Buoys/AFP
The massive expansion of the UK Covid strain across Spain could be “leaving no room” for other variants of the coronavirus to spread throughout the population, the country’s chief epidemiologist Fernando Simón said on Monday.

“It’s now our variant,” Simón told journalists during Monday’s state press conference, in reference to the fact that the strain that was first detected in the UK is now the most predominant of the Covid variants in Spain.

In 11 Spanish regions the B.1.1.7 variant is responsible for more than 70 percent of new cases and in five others it accounts for more than 90 percent of new infections (Asturias, Galicia, Cantabria, Navarre and Catalonia).

Simón, who in January had forecast that the impact of the so-called British strain would be marginal, has now said that its expansion across the Spanish population “could be benefiting us” as “it’s leaving no room” for the South African and Brazilian variants to take hold.

“The Brazilian and the South African strains are the ones that interest us and worry us most,” Simón, told journalists on Monday.

The head of Spain’s Centre for Health Alerts and Emergency Coordination added that it wasn’t necessary to give the rapid spread of the UK coronavirus variant “too much importance” and that instead it was preferable to “be very careful” with the other two variants, which have so far had a limited impact in Spain but are reported to be more aggressive and harder to stop.

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AstraZeneca vaccine for over 65s “soon”

“It is possible that the AstraZeneca vaccine in Spain may be offered soon to people over 65 years of age, ” Simón said at a press conference.

Spain’s health ministry announced last Tuesday that it was extending the roll-out of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine to the over-65s, after recent scientific reassurances about its safety.

But health authorities are still vaccinating Spain’s over 80s, having inoculated 70 percent of this age group by the start of April.

“Every time we have more solid evidence that in people over 65 the AstraZeneca vaccine will have the effect that we would like it to have,” Simón stated.

On March 10th the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended the AstraZeneca vaccine for people over 65 after several countries had set that age limit at 55, including Spain.

Spain was also among a number of European Union countries that suspended use of the AstraZeneca vaccine earlier this month after reports of blood clots in a very small number of people.

But they resumed its use on March 24th after both the World Health Organisation and the European Medicines Agency gave the vaccine a clean bill of health.

A recent study in renowned medical journal The Lancet which researched whether the AstraZeneca vaccine worked well in protecting against the B.1.1.7 variant, also known as the British strain, found that it helped protect against symptomatic illness caused by this novel variant.

READ ALSO: In Europe questions linger over possible AstraZeneca jab side-effects


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