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COVID-19

‘There will be a third Covid vaccine for people in Spain’: Health Minister

Spain’s Health Minister on Friday said that “everything points” to her government’s decision to administer a “third reinforcement vaccine” against Covid-19, and potentially even more vaccinations every year from now on. 

'There will be a third Covid vaccine for people in Spain': Health Minister
Spain's Health Minister also addressed the "controversial" matter of Covid vaccines for young children. Photo: Pascal POCHARD-CASABIANCA / AFP

Spanish Health Minister Carolina Darias believes 2021 won’t mark the end of Covid-19 vaccinations in the country.

When asked on Friday morning on Spanish radio station Onda Cero if it would be necessary to carry on vaccinating past the two doses, she responded that “everything pointed” to a third vaccine and potentially one every year. 

“Everything seems to indicate that it will be necessary to have a third vaccine… “or booster, as it is called,” Darias explained. 

“In fact, Spain has already signed a contract with Pfizer and Moderna for the delivery of vaccines in 2022 and 2023,” deals worth €4 billion. 

Darias added that “what has to be determined is when”, referring to when this third, and potentially future vaccinations, would be administered.

Spain has fully vaccinated 53 percent of its population up to now, reaching its target of 25 million doses administered in July and with the objective of herd immunity for late August still in sight. 

However, the country’s fortnightly infection rate has skyrocketed to 661 cases per 100,000 people in a month, and the rate is three times that among largely unvaccinated people in their twenties. 

Spain’s Health Minister Carolina Darias poses during her handover ceremony in January. Photo: Chema Moya/POOL/AFP)

“Once we get to the target of 70 percent vaccinated, we need to carry on vaccinating people until we get as close as possible to 100 percent of the population,” Darias expressed.

“We need to vaccinate the whole of humanity because nobody will be safe until we all are, hence why our government has committed to donating 22.5 million doses, 7 million to Latin America.” 

Spain’s Health Minister admitted that vaccines for young children remained a “controversial” subject for the public, even though inoculations in over 12s have been approved by the European Medicines Agency and Spain has followed suit.

“It’s true that young children are generally not transferrers of the virus but if we want to achieve full immunity we should be able to vaccinate them.

“We’ll broach the subject calmly and use scientific evidence,” the minister, originally from the island of Gran Canaria, told Onda Cero.

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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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