CONFIRMED: Spain approves Covid-19 vaccines for children aged 5 to 11

Children between the ages of 5 and 11 will be able to receive a Covid-19 vaccine from December 15th, Spain's Public Health Commission announced on Tuesday.

CONFIRMED: Spain approves Covid-19 vaccines for children aged 5 to 11
Children aged between 5 and 11 will be able to get the first dose of the vaccine from December 15. Photo by Andrej Ivanov/AFP

Spain will begin a vaccination campaign for children aged between 5 and 11 after the Pfizer vaccine for this section of the population was approved by the European Medicines Agency and Spain’s Vaccination Committee (La Ponencia de Vacunas), the group of experts that sets the national vaccination strategy.

The campaign will begin on December 15th. The Health Ministry is expecting to receive 3.2 million vaccines between now and January, which would be enough to give a first dose to all children in this age group (3.3 million).

They will be given one third of the dose that older people receive, and they will get the second dose the vaccine eight weeks later. 

It will be up to regional governments to decide whether to roll out the vaccination campaign in schools or not.

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

So far, only a small handful of countries have given the nod for vaccines in younger children, including the United States, Mexico and Canada.

The 5 to 11 age group was the only part of the population that had still not been given access to the vaccine. It’s also the age group that has reported the highest infection rate (412 cases per 100,000 inhabitants), almost double the average in Spain (248 per 100,000).

In regions such as the Basque Country and Navarre the infection rate in 6 to 12 year olds is above 1,000 per 100,000 children.

The second age group with the most infections are adults between the ages of 30 and 50, which corresponds to the age of parents with young children.

While the fifth wave spread mostly with young people who still hadn’t had a dose of the vaccine, the sixth wave has been spreading in children. It is hoped the vaccine will help to slow infections, though it’s still unclear what will happen with the Omicron variant, which is apparently more transmissible.

Spain’s 17 regional governments had been waiting to hear the decision by the Public Health Commission, which in turn had been waiting for recommendations from the country’s Vaccination Committee.

There had been disparaging opinions among health experts and politicians. During its first meeting on the matter following the EMA’s announcement, the Vaccination Committee concluded that in the current epidemiological context it was not necessary to immediately vaccinate children aged 5 to 11 given the high rate of vaccinated adults.

READ ALSO: Could Spain lock down its unvaccinated or make Covid vaccines compulsory?

Andalucía’s Health Minister Jesús Aguirre reiterated his willingness to start vaccinating children as soon as possible “in schools, as far as possible, or in health centres”.

“I’d rather not have to wait for children to return to the classrooms after Christmas for them to get their first dose,” Galician Regional President Alberto Núñez Feijóo argued.

Catalan health authorities have also stated they plan to follow “the established plans” to vaccinate minors, “as has been done with the rest of the vaccines”.

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Catalonia to give automatic five-day sick leave to people with Covid symptoms

The Catalan Health Ministry has introduced a new way of asking for sick leave from work for those with Covid-19 symptoms. The leave will automatically be given for five days, without the need to present a positive test.

Catalonia to give automatic five-day sick leave to people with Covid symptoms

Catalan Health Service Director Gemma Craywickel, along with the Catalan Public Health Secretary Carmen Cabezas, announced the move during a press conference on Tuesday.

Workers with Covid symptoms can now ask for sick leave from their job through the Meva Salut website, app or via the appointment website here, without the need to present a positive antigen or PCR test. The new service has been available since Tuesday, July 5th.

All that is needed is to log on with a CIP number and password or digital certificate and click on ‘altres servis’ (other services), followed by ‘Programar visites d’atenció primària’, where you usually make an appointment. 

Those who apply will automatically be given sick leave for the next five days, which will be confirmed via text message or e-mail.

If symptoms persist longer than five days, authorities say you should contact your local health centre to ask for the leave to be extended.

The move was introduced in a bid to take the pressure off local health services who attended 105,024 patients in the last week, 16 percent more than during the previous week.

Around 9.07 percent of people who visited hospitals in the region on Monday July 4th -15,817 patients – had symptoms compatible with Covid-19.

In addition, within the last four weeks, Catalan health services have seen 85 percent more patients with acute respiratory illnesses, thought to be a result of Covid-19 infections.

“The measure aims to free up resources for people who really them,” explained Craywinckel.

“It’s a way of simplifying administrative procedures. We already know what the symptoms are, so there is no need for the patient to explain to us face-to-face or over the phone,” she continued.

The number of Covid-19 infections in Catalonia has risen by 15 percent in the last week, with 2,032 hospital admissions, the highest number since mid-February 2022.

There have also been 51 Covid-19 patients admitted to Catalan ICUs in the last week.

Catalan Public Health Secretary Carmen Cabezas called on people to respect the requirement to continue wearing face masks on public transport and said that vulnerable people should keep wearing masks in indoor public spaces too. 

READ MORE: What are the specific mask rules for public transport and travel in Spain?

This is not the first time the Catalan health authorities have introduced an automatic sick leave system for those with Covid-19.

A similar service was introduced earlier this year during the height of the sixth wave, with a seven-day leave period plus the need to present a positive Covid-19 test.

Andalusia also introduced a similar automatic sick leave system for those with Covid-19 and a positive test back in February 2022.