How is Spain’s Covid vaccination campaign for children aged 5 to 11 going?

Almost a month since Spain approved a milder version of the Covid-19 vaccine for children aged 5 to 11, we look at the stats that reveal the progress being made and how it compares to other European countries.

vaccine child spain covid
Spain's vaccination campaign for children is progressing at a faster rate than in most other European countries. Photo: Iakovos Hatzistavrou / AFP

On December 7th 2021, Spain’s Public Health Commission approved the use of the Pfizer vaccine for young children, following the green light given by the European Medicines Agency a few days earlier. 

The approval of this milder dose – a third of the strength of an adult dose (10 micrograms instead of 30) – came at a time when children under 12 were the age group with the highest infection rate in Spain.

Within eight days, the first batch of 1.3 million doses had been distributed across Spain and the campaign had officially kicked off, with each region deciding whether to vaccinate young children at vaccination centres, schools or hospitals.

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

Spain has famously led the way in terms of Europe’s vaccination drive, with just under 90 percent of the eligible population 12 and over fully vaccinated.

But have Spanish parents been just as willing to have their children vaccinated against Covid-19?

By January 3rd 2021, of the 3.3 million children aged 5 to 11 in Spain, 29 percent had received their first dose. That equates to just over 964,000 young children.

Five days earlier, it stood at 24.6 percent, which showcases that despite New Year celebrations, the vaccination campaign for this age group is progressing at an average rate of 1 percent a day.

There are of course regional disparities. In the northern region of Cantabria 43 percent of children aged 5 to 11 have received their first dose whereas in the Balearic Islands the rate is 15 percent. 

The differences aren’t necessarily all down to more reluctance from parents in certain areas as regional health authorities are not organising their campaigns in the same way, and some have only opened up vaccine appointments to the specific ages rather than the whole 5 to 11 age group. 

In a survey published in mid-December by market research company Appinio, 74 percent of parents in Spain said they would have their young children vaccinated against Covid-19, 13.7 percent said they were undecided and 12 percent answered that they would not. 

Comparing the vaccination rates among young children with neighbouring countries reveals that Spain is once again one of the main inoculation proponents in Europe.

Italy, which approved the vaccination of 5 to 11-year-olds on December 1st, has given the first dose to 10 percent of children in this age group whereas in Germany the rate was 8.2 percent on January 3rd. 

In France, where the paediatric vaccine campaign kicked off two weeks ago, only 64,000 young children of the 5.8 million that are eligible had received their first dose during the first ten days.

Portugal, which started the campaign around the same time as France and has a far smaller young population, saw 88,000 children vaccinated during the first weekend, reflecting the same willingness to get everyone vaccinated as Spain.

In an article published in the Financial Times on December 30th, the London-based daily wrote that “the lack of a common message means Europe may struggle to convince parents to vaccinate their children, depriving the region of a tool to fight the latest Covid surge”.

Children aged 5 to 11 are no longer the age group with the highest infection rate in Spain but the incidence of the virus is in the “extreme” risk category, as is the case with all other age groups.

Spain continues to beat daily infection records as Omicron sweeps through the population.

On Monday January 3rd, the health ministry announced that 372,766 new infections over the New Year’s long weekend had catapulted the country’s fortnightly infection rate up 520 points to 2,295 cases per 100,000 people. 

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Spain starts fourth Covid vaccine rollout for over-80s

Spanish health authorities started offering a second Covid-19 booster dose to people over 80 and those in care homes on Monday September 26th, a campaign which also includes the flu vaccine for those who wish to have it.

Spain starts fourth Covid vaccine rollout for over-80s

In early September, Spain’s Public Health Commission marked September 26th 2022 in the calendar as the start date for their fourth vaccine rollout for over-80s and care home residents in Spain. 

As planned, the campaign has started in all Spanish regions on that date, except for in Andalusia, where it will begin on October 3rd.

The vaccines to be used will the new inoculations developed by Moderna and Pfizer against the Omicron BA.1 sub-variant, serums approved by the European Medicines Agency on September 1st. 

“(They) can extend protection against different variants and are therefore expected to help maintain optimal protection” against COVID-19 as the virus evolves, the EMA said.

The inoculations “target the Omicron BA.1 sub-variant in addition to the original strain” of the coronavirus, the Amsterdam-based agency added in a statement.

Around ten million of these doses have been delivered to Spain in the past weeks, a sufficient amount to inoculate the 2.8 million people in the country who are above the age of 80.

The plan is to offer a second booster dose to the rest of the population, moving progressively down from oldest to youngest, with over-60s next in line. 

People aged 80 or older as well as those in care homes who have had Covid-19 since their last vaccination against the coronavirus are advised to wait until three months after their infection before getting a second booster dose.

It’s taken several months for the Spanish government to decide when to offer additional booster doses to its geriatric population, as the Health Ministry confirmed there would be a second Covid-19 booster for them on June 9th and the decision had been in the pipeline since April, but they argued that “the most appropriate moment must be established according to the epidemiological situation”.

Until now, the fourth dose has only been made available to around 120,000 people in Spain classified as vulnerable, including people with cancer, HIV patients, those who have had a transplant or are receiving dialysis.

Spain’s Health Ministry wanted all of the country’s 17 regions to kick off their flu vaccination campaign on the same day – September 26th – but not all autonomous communities have received the necessary flu vaccine doses for this double inoculation campaign to go ahead on time.

This means that regional authorities across the country will begin their joint flu and Covid vaccination campaigns on different dates in late September or throughout the month of October. 

In Andalusia the Covid-flu vaccination campaign starts on October 3rd, in Aragón and Navarre on October 10th, in the Balearics on October 13th, in Asturias, Cantabria, Catalonia, Extremadura, Galicia, Madrid, Murcia and Castilla y León all on September 26th, whereas in the remaining regions the date for the double vaccination campaign is not yet known.

Around 54 percent of Spain’s population has had a Covid-19 booster dose (less potent than the initial two-dose vaccination), but the rates are lower among younger people.