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VACCINE

Catalonia to give Covid vaccine to teenagers and adults under 40 in July 

Health authorities in Catalonia have announced that they plan to vaccinate their population between the ages of 16 and 39 in July, the first region in Spain to provide a vaccination time frame for its younger adults. 

Catalonia to give Covid vaccine to teenagers and adults under 40 in July 
A teenager receives a Pfizer vaccine in Tel Aviv, Israel, in January. Photo: JACK GUEZ / AFP

The head of the region’s Covid vaccination programme Carmen Cabezas made the announcement on Thursday morning during an interview with local radio station RAC1, suggesting that those aged 16 to 39 could receive the vaccine 3 to 4 weeks after the 40 to 50 age group. 

According to Cabezas, who is also the deputy director of Catalonia’s Health Promotion Department, the rate of inoculation is expected to increase “mid June” whilst those aged 40 to 49 are getting the vaccine. That’s as long as there aren’t further delays with the vaccine deliveries, she clarified.

Catalan health authorities have not yet revealed which vaccines it will give to the 16 to 39 year olds or the 40 to 49s. 

Cabezas added that her department had chosen to offer the vaccine to those as young as 16, as is the case in the United States or Israel, because the Pfizer vaccine has been approved for use on people of that age and above. 

So far, Spain’s national Health Ministry has only offered a vaccine schedule for those aged 50 and above, making Catalonia the first region to announce plans for younger adults and teenagers. 

Only some Spanish regions have started vaccinating under 60s however.

Health authorities across the country are currently focusing their efforts on giving the first dose to their 12 million over 60s in May, and the second dose to those in the older age groups.

More than 6 million people out of Spain’s population of 47 million have now received full vaccine immunisation. 

Twenty-nine percent of the population has received at least one dose. 

“We are just 100 days from achieving group immunity,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said on Monday. 

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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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