Who still hasn’t been vaccinated against Covid-19 in Spain?

Spain recently reached its first immunisation target of 70 percent of its population vaccinated, but is it just anti-vaxxers who still haven’t been inoculated?

Who still hasn’t been vaccinated against Covid-19 in Spain?
Who still hasn’t been vaccinated against Covid-19 in Spain? Photo: PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU / AFP

At this point in Spain’s vaccination campaign, not having been vaccinated if you’re an adult is primarily down to personal choice rather than due to lack of availability of vaccines. 

Spain is reported to have 7 million vaccines in storage waiting to be administered and the vaccination campaign is open to all groups aged 12 and over.

The country is one of the global frontrunners in vaccination against the coronavirus, announcing last Wednesday it had fully vaccinated just over 70 percent of its 47 million inhabitants.

This doesn’t include the roughly 5.3 million children aged under 12 who Spain will look to vaccinate if the European Medicines Agency approves it, allowing the Health Ministry to edge closer to vaccinating 100 percent of its population. 

At the current rate, 90 percent vaccination could be achieved by October 2021.

READ MORE: ’70 percent vaccinated isn’t enough’: Why Spain is revising its target for Covid herd immunity

So who’s left to vaccinate among the target population that’s currently eligible for the vaccine?

A look at the latest stats by Spain’s Health Ministry shows that the number of people who haven’t received a single dose of a Covid-19 vaccine is almost non-existent among people aged 60 and up. 

For people in their fifties, 6.1 percent have not been vaccinated, a rate which grows to 13.4 among people aged 40 to 49. 

For the remaining eligible groups – 30 to 39, 20 to 29 and 12 to 19 – roughly a quarter of each age bracket is yet to receive their first inoculation.

Among teens, first and second doses are currently being administered by Spain’s regions. The number of 12 to 19 year olds with one dose has gone from 39 percent in mid August to 78 percent on September 3rd, indicating that most parents in Spain are in favour of their teenage children being vaccinated.

OPINION: ‘Not all parents in Spain are in favour of their children getting the Covid vaccine’

That leaves adults mainly in their thirties and forties as the main group who haven’t had the vaccine yet. 

According to the experts, among these there are three clearly defined profiles: so-called anti-vaxxers, those who haven’t made time to get the vaccine or aren’t sure about getting it, and people who have recovered from Covid-19 . 

Vaccine denialists

A survey carried out in June by the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology (FECYT) found only 4 percent of Spaniards were totally reluctant to receiving the Covid-19 vaccine.

In October 2020 before any of the now available inoculations had been approved, Covid vaccine skepticism affected a third of Spain’s population.

“Anti-vaxxers are absolutely marginal here, a minority group, and they will not have a big impact in Spain’s vaccination campaign,” Amós García, president of the Spanish Vaccination Association, said in reaction to the study. 

“I wouldn’t waste my time and effort on this group,” he added, whilst also adding in a separate interview that if attempts were made to convince them to get vaccinated, it would be important “to convey to them the scientific discourse, the only valid one, which has made it possible for society to advance and improve the level of health of citizens”.

Jaime Jesús Pérez , also from the Spanish Association of Vaccination, said that in other countries such as France or Germany vaccine skepticism is far more widespread, whereas in Spain “there are no anti-vaccine movements” despite some posts on social media.

The fence sitters

Pérez added that not all skeptics are complete vaccine denialists, but rather that some people are “not in rush” to get vaccinated and would rather wait and see what happens in terms of the pandemic and potential vaccine side-effects. 

This group also encompasses people who haven’t gone to the trouble of getting vaccinated, either due to a lack of time or apathy. 

Generally speaking, the younger the person, the lower the perception of risk they are exposing themselves to and others by not getting vaccinated. 

The fact that regions with older populations such as Asturias, Extremadura and Galicia have a higher rate of vaccination is no coincidence.

The recently infected 

Of the almost 5 million people who have had Covid-19 in Spain, there are still many who are currently waiting to have their Covid vaccine, especially after a fifth wave of the coronavirus which sent infection rates shooting up  among young people in particular. 

Spain’s Health Ministry initially advised a six-month wait for the first dose for those who have recovered from the virus, but faced with the more infectious Delta variant, Aragon, the Basque Country, Catalonia, the Canary Islands and Navarra decided to shorten this time period to two months. 

There are also those who had Covid-19 more than six months ago but believe they have enough natural immunity and antibodies to fight off future infections.

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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.