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COVID-19 VACCINES

CONFIRMED: Spain approves Covid booster vaccines for over-40s

Spain’s Public Health Commission has approved Covid-19 booster shots for people in their fifties and those vaccinated with AstraZeneca, as well as confirming that people in the 40-49 age group will also be added to the booster campaign at a later date.

Third Covid-19 doses being given in Spain
Booster shots to be given to those in their 50s. Photo: JOSE JORDAN / AFP

Spain’s Public Health Commission on Thursday approved Covid-19 booster jabs for people in their fifties in Spain, as well as for people of all ages vaccinated with the AstraZeneca vaccine, following the support given to this decision by the country’s Health Ministry, the country’s 17 regional governments and the Vaccine Committee.

The official health body has also confirmed booster vaccines for those aged 40 to 49. However, they will only start receiving their booster jabs once the 50 to 59 age group booster campaign is more advanced. 

Each of Spain’s autonomous communities will be responsible for organising its own booster rollout for over-40s and over-50s, but regional health departments are likely to follow a staggered approach where people are contacted in a descending order – from oldest to youngest – one or two years at a time. To be eligible for their booster dose, six months must have passed from their initial two-dose vaccination.

The European Center for Disease Control (ECDE) endorsed the third dose for people over 40 three weeks ago. 

Spain’s Vaccine Committee – a group of medical experts who advise the Health Ministry on its vaccination strategy also suggested that boosters should be extended to those who were fully vaccinated with AstraZeneca, a decision the Public Health Commission has since also approved.

Health Minister Carolina Darias told journalists on Wednesday that her department supported the proposal for the Public Health Commission to “drop the age limit for the Covid booster to 50 years of age, and that people with full AstraZeneca vaccination also be eligible for a booster jab”. 

When asked about the EU health agency’s (ECDC) latest comments that vaccines aren’t enough to stop infections from rising across the EU, Spain’s Health Minister said that such advice was aimed at other countries with a lower vaccination rate. 

“The booster dose works. We are seeing that the infection rate of those in their seventies is lower and this is the group that has received most booster shots”.

READ ALSO – UPDATE: What you need to know about getting a Covid-19 booster shot in Spain

So far, Covid-19 booster vaccines in Spain have been offered to people aged 60 and above, immunosuppressed people, healthcare and care home staff and people who received the single-dose Johnson and Johnson vaccine.

Most of those who got the AstraZeneca jabs in Spain are aged between 60 and 69 and are already receiving their third doses, but there are also younger people such as essential workers who received it before it was decided that it should be for those in their sixties only.

This includes essential staff such as police officers, firefighters and teachers.  

There are around seven million people in Spain who fall within the 50-59 age group. 

Countries such as France and the UK have already approved booster jabs for all adults, in a bid to help stop the new Omicron variant.

A total of 80.2 percent of those over 70 in Spain have already been given a Covid-19 booster shot.

This comes after Covid-19 cases in Spain have risen by 42 percent in the last seven days. On Wednesday, infections once again reached a peak since July, with a cumulative national incidence rate of 441 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.

The worse affected regions are Navarre with an incidence rate of 1,314 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, the Basque Country with 966 and Aragón with 772.

Despite the rising cases, on Wednesday Darias ruled out adding more measures and restrictions. She said people should continue getting vaccinated, wear a mask and ensure rooms have good ventilation.

However, health experts who advise Spain’s regions on public health sent a list of recommendations in which they ask that the hospitality industry limit the number of diners per table to 10 and that those who attend Christmas dinners and meals at home undergo an antigen test beforehand.

READ MORE: Will Spain bring back tougher Covid restrictions for Christmas?

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COVID-19 VACCINES

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.

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