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VACCINE

Who will get the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine in Spain?

Spain is set to receive its first batch of Johnson & Johnson vaccines on Tuesday April 13th 2021, the only Covid inoculation that currently requires a single dose. Who will Spanish authorities make it available to?

Who will get the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine in Spain?
Photo: KAMIL KRZACZYNSKI/AFP

*UPDATE APRIL 14TH 2021: Pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson is to delay the rollout of its Janssen Covid-19 vaccine in Europe, including in Spain, due to concerns over rare potential side effects detected in the United States. Spanish health authorities are yet clarify how this will affect their plans for the Janssen vaccine as explained below. 

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On Friday, Health Minister Carolina Darias confirmed that on Tuesday April 13th Spain will receive its first 300,000 doses of the Janssen vaccine, out of a total of 5.5 million which are scheduled to arrive in the next three months. 

“In principle (or “for now”, depending on the interpretation of en principio), it will be administered in accordance with the latest update of Spain’s vaccination strategy, in the same typology category as the mRNA ones,” Darias told journalists. 

“In other words we’ll incorporate it into the campaign for those of 80 years of age downwards.”

So far the Covid-19 mRNA Covid vaccines available have been the Pfizer and the Moderna ones. In simple terms, mRNA vaccines are a new type of inoculation which teaches the body’s cells how to make proteins; this in turn triggers an immune response in our bodies. 

The Spanish government, which has high expectations of getting its vaccine rollout into full throttle in this second quarter, wants to offer the one-dose Janssen vaccine to those aged 70 to 79 as a way of speeding up the rate of immunity among its population.  

This age group is included in group 5 of Spain’s vaccination strategy , together with people who have any of the serious illnesses that make them a priority for vaccination and also together with those aged 66 to 69 years. 

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The first two groups will be vaccinated at the same time whereas the 66 to 69 year olds will be vaccinated afterwards.

According to Spain’s National Statistics Institute (INE), there were 3.9 million people in Spain aged 70 to 79 in July 2020, so the expected 5.5 million doses from Janssen would be sufficient to vaccinate them all.

However, if only the Janssen inoculation was given to this group, Spain’s vaccine campaign wouldn’t be able to speed up, as in April only 300,000 doses are expected, then 1.3 million in May and 3.9 million in June, according to Health Minister Darias. 

Therefore those in group 5 could instead receive the other mRNA vaccines — Pfizer or Moderna.

It’s a quickly evolving situation as evidenced with the many changes the AstraZeneca vaccine rollout has suffered in the past weeks (the latest is that those aged between 66 and 69 will receive AstraZeneca if the other three vaccines are not available in their region).

With the weekend’s vaccine figures not fully counted yet, the latest figures from Friday April 10th show that more than 10 million vaccine doses have been administered in Spain since December 27th, with 3 million people (6.5 percent of the population) receiving the full inoculation.  

Fifteen percent of the population has received at least one dose. 

Spain hopes to vaccinate 22 million people in the second quarter of 2021. 

The country’s health authorities have been able to pick up the pace of inoculation in recent days, beating the record for daily administered doses with 336,846 on Wednesday April 7th and then 456,682 the following day.

READ MORE: How fast is Spain vaccinating its population compared to other European countries?

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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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