On May 10th, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez told his countrymen there were 100 days left for Spain to reach the herd immunity target of 70 percent through vaccination, penciling in the ‘new normality’ milestone for the end of August in the calendar.
After a rocky start to a campaign which kicked off in late December 2020 and which was initially marred by delivery delays and a lack of organisation, Spanish health authorities slowly but surely kept increasing the pace of inoculation.
In recent weeks, Spain has surpassed the UK and the US’s formerly fast-paced vaccine campaigns and currently leads the way among the EU’s most populated nations.
As of Wednesday August 18th, just over 63.7 percent of Spain’s population has been fully vaccinated, more than Italy ‘s 57.2 percent, France’s 52.5 percent and Germany’s 57 percent.
Only smaller nations such as Malta (91.2 percent), Belgium (65.3 percent), Portugal (64.2 percent) and Denmark (63.9 percent) have fully vaccinated more of their residents.
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However, since mid July the summer holidays have slowed down the pace of Spain’s vaccination campaign by 55 percent.
On Tuesday August 17th, regional authorities reported they had administered just over 300,000 doses, a figure which may seem high but is the lowest daily number since May 18th.
This means that at the current pace, the Spanish government will not reach its target of fully vaccinating 70 percent of its 47 million inhabitants until September, and not by late August as Sánchez had forecast.
Some regions have tried to counteract the downward trend by offering vaccinations without having to first get an appointment.
Almost 30 million people currently have the complete Covid vaccination and by the end of the month it’s expected to be 32 million, one million short of the target.
The country has reached the 70 percent milestone among its target population (12 years and older), with at least 11 regions having already surpassed this rate.
Irregardless of the fact that Spain doesn’t look likely to meet its planned target, this has been a successful campaign, with 67 million doses administered and 83 percent of the population with at least one dose, evidencing how mistrust in public health authorities and vaccine hesitancy aren’t as high as in other nations.
However, the emergence and then dominance of new variants such as the Delta strain (considered 40 to 60 percent more contagious) has meant Spanish authorities have revised the so-called herd immunity target up to 80 percent.
The country’s fortnightly infection rate has dropped by 39 percent over the past two weeks and now stands at 400 cases per 100,000 people, reflecting the downward trend of the country’s fifth coronavirus wave.
Spanish health authorities have not ruled out that it will be the last, so vaccination targets will continue to be key in the months to come, with vaccines for under 12s and a third booster inoculation both on the table.
“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,” Health Minister Carolina Darias ambitiously announced in late July.