Madrid regional president Isabel Díaz Ayuso on Wednesday announced her government’s Covid plans for the Christmas period.
Her government’s focus is reportedly on early detection, extra health staff, public awareness and vaccination, a plan which will “continue to combine the economy and public health”, Ayuso stated in reference to her relaxed approach to Covid measures throughout the pandemic.
“Rather than going back to closures and lockdowns, what we’re going to do is avoid confusion and be proactive,” the 43 year old said.
Vaccines for young children
As of December 15th, health workers in the region that houses the Spanish capital will reportedly start vaccinating children between the ages of 5 and 11.
Ayuso’s announcement comes before official confirmation from Spain’s Vaccination Committee and the Public Health Commission that doses a third of the strength of adult ones should be used in young children.
The European Medicines Agency recently approved the use of a lighter Pfizer vaccine for children in this age group, but Spanish health experts are still uncertain about whether this is necessary given the very high vaccination coverage in the adult population.
Spain’s Health Minister Carolina Darias did announce on Tuesday that the first batch of Covid vaccine for under 12s will arrive in the country in the second half of December, but Díaz Ayuso has decided once again to make her own plans rather than wait to hear from Spain’s left-wing government.
Spain’s regions can organise their vaccination strategies with a certain degree of freedom but the legality of vaccinating children without first getting approval from national health departments may be called into question.
Free antigen tests for all
The other standout feature of Ayuso’s Covid Christmas plans is the promise of a free antigen test for pretty much every madrileño, who number 6.6 million across the region, 3.2 million in the city.
These are for “whenever there are social gatherings, for it to be done safely,” the right-wing politician added.
Madrid’s regional government has bought 4 million antigen tests which will be made available in 3,000 pharmacies from December 15th, so it won’t cover everyone in the region.
Residents will have to show their Madrid regional health card at the chemist whilst those with private health insurance can simply show their ID to get a free test.
Booster shots for people in their sixties
From Thursday December 2nd, people living in the capital aged 60 to 69 will be able to book an appointment to get their Covid-19 booster shot in Madrid.
Spain’s Public Health Commission had initially proposed that 65 be the cut-off age for the booster dose in Spain but on November 17th Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez confirmed the age limit would be dropped to those aged 60 and over.
Rather than opting for a staggered approach in which people born each year are called up separately to get their booster dose, Madrid has opted to open vaccinations to the whole age group in a bid to get madrileños in their sixties that extra protection ahead of Christmas.
“The booster shot for the population aged 60 and over will be given six months after completing the initial full vaccination with mRNA vaccines (Pfizer or Moderna) and after three months in the case of those who have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine or AstraZeneca doses”, Madrid’s regional government explains.
More health workers
Ayuso has also promised “€40 million to employ all the health professionals necessary until at least the end of winter”.
This staff “reinforcement” effectively involves handing out more temporary work contracts to health workers that aren’t working full time.
“We’re going to ask the recruitment companies for their collaboration to help us test their employees,” Ayuso explained.