CONFIRMED: Spain announces 70 percent of its population is fully vaccinated against Covid

One of the global frontrunners in vaccination against the coronavirus, Spain announced on Wednesday it had fully vaccinated just over 70 percent of its 47 million residents.

CONFIRMED: Spain announces 70 percent of its population is fully vaccinated against Covid
Photo: Cristina Quicler/AFP

According to the latest figures released by the Spanish health ministry, some 33,376,693 people have been completely vaccinated, or 70.3 percent of the population.

“70 percent of Spain’s population is now fully vaccinated,” Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez tweeted as the figures were released, thanking the country’s national health service.

In an earlier speech, he said “more than 90 percent of the over 40s” were fully vaccinated while “more than 70 percent of those in the 20-29 and the 12-19 age groups” had already had at least one dose of the vaccine.

When the vaccination campaign began at the end of December, the government said that if all went to plan, “around 70 percent” of the population would be fully vaccinated by summer 2021.

In April, Sanchez gave a more specific timeline, saying the aim was to have reached that figure by the end of August.

Thanks to the population’s unshakable confidence in the national health system and the vaccine, Spain was able to carry out a rapid vaccination campaign with little sign of dissent nor any debate over its necessity.

Within the European Union, only three other countries have a higher percentage of fully-vaccinated residents — Malta with 80 percent, Demark, which has close to 72 percent and Belgium with just over 70 percent, according to vaccination statistics compiled by AFP.

On Tuesday, the EU said it had reached its objective of having 70 percent of adults within the block fully vaccinated.

Before the emergence of the more contagious Delta variant, experts had said they believed herd immunity would be achieved when 70 percent of the population was vaccinated.

But in March, an article in Nature magazine said the belief in achieving herd immunity was losing traction.

“Most estimates had placed the threshold at 60-70 percent of the population gaining immunity, either through vaccinations or past exposure to the virus.

But as the pandemic enters its second year, the thinking has begun to shift,” it said.

Following a new wave of infections during the summer due to the Delta variant, Spain is once again beginning to see infections falling.

According to the latest figures published on Wednesday, Spain registered 6,818 new cases and 132 deaths over the past 24 hours, raising its total number of infections to 4,861,883 and its overall death toll to 84,472.

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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.