EXPLAINED: How Spain will vaccinate five to 11 year-olds against Covid

Spain's Public Health Commission has announced that it will start vaccinating Spain's 3.3 million children aged between five and 11 from Wednesday. Here's what we know about how the rollout for children will work.

EXPLAINED: How Spain will vaccinate five to 11 year-olds against Covid
Children aged between five and 11 will be able to get their first dose starting on December 15th. Photo: Andrej Ivanov/AFP

The five to 11 age group has reported one of the highest infection rates (547 cases per 100,000 inhabitants according to the latest data), well above the national average of 323 cases per 10,000.

The aim of the Public Health Commission is to “reduce the transmission of Covid-19 in this part of the population and lower the chances of transmission within households, schools and the wider community.”

Will the vaccine be obligatory for children?

No, just as for adults in Spain the Covid vaccines will not be obligatory for children, like most vaccines in Spain.

Last week the EU’s Ursula von der Leyen urged Member States to “think about mandatory vaccination” as more cases of the Omicron variant are detected across Europe. But Spain’s Health Minister Carolina Darias said 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.

Despite vaccines being voluntary, 97 per cent of Spanish parents follow the official vaccination guidelines for their children, but we will have to wait and see if the Covid-19 vaccine is any different.

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

When will vaccinations begin?

The first batch of vaccines are expected to arrive on Monday, December 13th. After they are distributed around the country, health workers will be able to begin administering the first dose from Wednesday, December 15th.

Darias has confirmed that the second batch of two million doses will arrive in January, which will complete the amount necessary amount for each child to receive their first dose. 

Which vaccines will be available?

So far, only Pfizer has been approved by the EMA (European Medicines Agency) for use in children. However, the EMA could approve the Moderna vaccine later this month.

Clinical trials for under five-year-olds are currently underway.

How effective is it?

Trials of the vaccine in children have shown similar safety and efficacy results to those seen in trials of adults 16 to 25, at 90.7 percent, according to Pfizer.

What is the difference between an adult and a child dose?

Children in this age group will be given a third of an adult dose (10 micrograms instead of 30).

If a child turns 12 between the first and the second dose, however, they will receive the same amount as an adult dose for their second jab. 

READ ALSO: Spain rules out EU’s advice on compulsory Covid-19 vaccination

How many weeks between the first and second dose?

While adults can get their second dose three weeks after the first, children will have to wait eight weeks.

The Public Health Commission followed the recommendation from Spain’s Vaccination Committee, which said that having a longer period between doses increased the immune response, and will help to get all children inoculated with one dose as soon as possible.

This is the same method being followed in Canada, while the United States has opted for 21 days between doses, like with adults.

Where will vaccinations take place?

The Health Ministry has left it up to each region to decide where and how to roll out the vaccine campaign. Most autonomous communities are still finalising the details of their plan.

In Catalonia, Castilla-La Mancha, Extremadura, La Rioja and Valencia the regional governments have said they will roll out the vaccination campaign in schools.

Meanwhile, in Asturias, Aragón, Galicia, Andalucía, the Basque Country and Navarra parents will have to book appointments for their children in health centres.

In Madrid, vaccines will take place in hospitals, and in the Canary Islands, Castilla y León and Murcia it will be in mass vaccination centres. 

READ ALSO: Where and when can young children get the Covid vaccine in your region of Spain?

Who will be vaccinated first?

The order of vaccinations has also been left up to each region to decide, but the Health Ministry has recommended starting with vulnerable children first, and then vaccinating in order of age, with the eldest children first. 

Most regions have chosen to do it this way, but a few have different plans. 

In Madrid, younger siblings of those aged 10 and 11 will also be vaccinated at the same time, to speed up the process, while Catalonia has chosen not to differentiate by age.

The government of Extremadura has announced plans to inoculate all 11, 10 and 9 year-olds with the first dose in schools by December 22nd. 

Are there any side effects?

Like with any vaccine, there can be mild side effects. The ones in children are the same ones experienced by adults: fatigue, headaches, arm ache and muscle pain that will disappear 24 to 48h after the vaccine.

A few cases of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) have been detected in teenagers, but these were usually brief and patients recovered quickly without treatment.

The Spanish Pediatrics Association published an article recommending the vaccine and highlighting that the possibilities of suffering these episodes are less likely in younger children. Added to the fact that 5 to 11 year-olds will receive a reduced dose of the vaccine, it is very likely the risk of these side effects is much smaller than in teenagers.

What happens if my child has or has had Covid? 

Children who have been infected with Covid-19 will have to wait four weeks after diagnosis or symptoms begin to receive their first dose of vaccine.

In the event that the infection occurs between the first and the second dose, they will also have to wait four weeks after diagnosis and always within eight weeks of the first dose.

Which other countries are vaccinating five to 11 year-olds?

The United States, Canada, China and Israel have started vaccinating under 12s with the Pfizer vaccine. Italy has approved the use of the vaccine in five to 11 year-olds and will start administering doses later this month.  Portugal’s health authority has also given the green light  for the use of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine for children between the ages of five and 11.

READ ALSO: Where and when can young children get the Covid vaccine in your region of Spain?

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Spain to offer fourth Covid-19 vaccine dose to ‘entire population’

Spain’s Health Ministry on Thursday announced there will be a second Covid-19 booster shot offered to all age groups in the country, with the rollout likely to begin this autumn.

Spain to offer fourth Covid-19 vaccine dose to 'entire population'

Spain’s Health Minister Carolina Darias on Thursday announced that the country’s Public Health Commission, the body responsible for advising the ministry on Spain’s Covid vaccination strategy, has said there should be a fourth dose offered to all of Spain’s 47 million inhabitants. 

What hasn’t been fully decided yet is when the rollout will begin, although Darias did hint that it’s likely to take place during the autumn. 

“We’re waiting for the arrival of new vaccines adapted to Covid-19 variants by that date, as stated in the contracts we have signed with the pharmaceutical companies,” Darias said on La Sexta TV channel.

The decision also still requires full approval from the Public Health Commission. There’s unlikely to be a u-turn on the matter, although Spanish health authorities have at different stages of the pandemic taken some time to execute decisions they initially announced. 

Until now, only people over 80, those in care homes and people classified as vulnerable (cancer, HIV, transplant, dialysis patients) have been approved to have a second booster dose in Spain, which is milder than the initial two-shot vaccination given in 2021.

In April 2022, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) considered that at that time it was too early to speak of a fourth dose for all age groups, but they have given the go ahead to high-risk groups.

Around 50 percent of Spain’s population has had one Covid-19 booster dose (third dose), but the rates are lower among younger people.

Spain’s Public Health Commission is in favour of waiting to see how the country’s epidemiological situation evolves and for the new messenger RNA vaccines adapted to the new variants to be made available. 

These new serums are expected to be ready in October and the two pharmaceutical companies developing them, Pfizer and Moderna, have already submitted the results of their clinical trials to the European Medicines Agency.

Although for the past months Spain has only been counting Covid-19 infections in people aged 60 and over as well as serious cases, health authorities have recorded an increase in recent weeks. 

On Tuesday, they confirmed there were 36,133 new infections over the previous 7 days and 131 Covid deaths.

As part of its change of strategy towards the pandemic in recent months, the Spanish government has essentially treated Covid-19 like another endemic disease similar to the flu, deciding to remove quarantines for asymptomatic and mild cases, and after a long wait, relaxed indoor mask wearing rules.