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When will people under 40 in Spain be able to get their Covid booster shot?

With many Covid health passes due to expire in February for people without a booster shot, we find out the latest on why Spain is taking so long to offer this reinforcement dose to people under 40 in the country and when they’re likely to be eligible. 

booster shot under 40s spain
The Spanish government has not yet announced when under 40s will be able to have a Covid vaccine reinforcement dose. (Photo by JOSE JORDAN / AFP)

As infection rates started to surge under the Omicron variant in November, the EU announced it would limit the validity of its flagship Covid-19 certificate to nine months from February 2022, a document which can be updated by getting a booster dose.

Some Member States are fully on board with the measure. Austria announced in December that tourists will now need to show proof of a booster dose to enter the country and Croatia, Switzerland, Greece and the Netherlands intend to follow suit soon. 

Spanish authorities have so far not spoken out specifically about whether they will enforce the EU’s new Covid certificate rules for travellers or domestically, perhaps because on this occasion the country’s booster dose campaign is lagging behind other countries in Europe.

European countries such as Malta, Ireland, Austria and Italy have administered more booster doses to their populations than Spain. Graph: Our World in Data

As of January 11th, exactly a third of Spain’s population – 33.3 percent – has had a booster dose, but whereas other European countries have opened up reinforcement vaccination to all adult age groups, Spain has followed the same rigid and staggered approach – from oldest to youngest, one year at a time – that it’s used since the start of the campaign. 

So when will people aged 30 to 39 be eligible for their Covid-19 booster in Spain?

The Spanish government has not yet announced when, but some regions are pushing for it to happen as soon as possible as they’ve already given booster shots to most of their residents 40 or older. 

The last age groups included in the campaign were people in their fifties and forties on December 16th, and some autonomous communities have opened up appointments for everyone within these two age groups. 

Galicia wants to start administering booster doses to people in their thirties now, as does Asturias and Andalusia.

“We cannot wait until March for the booster dose of Covid for people under 40, more vaccines have to arrive,” Elías Bendodo, Andalusia’s Minister of Public Administration said in an interview with Spanish news agency Europa Press in late December. 

“We’re going to ask the national government to speed up and multiply the arrival of vaccines to our region. We need to give the remaining population groups a booster dose now, but for this the Spanish government has to send them to us.”  

According to Spanish medical daily Redacción Médica, Spain’s Health Ministry is currently studying whether to reduce the waiting period to receive the Covid-19 booster dose after the initial vaccination from six to three months.

This may contribute to speeding up booster doses for some under-40s in Spain but millions of people in their thirties received their initial Covid-19 vaccination in July and August which would mean they are due a reinforcement jab now in January and February 2022.

Spain’s Health Ministry did announce in early January that people aged under 65 who have been infected with Covid-19 will now have to wait at least four weeks to receive their booster doses, something some health experts have said makes no sense as a person’s natural immunity is at top strength after recovering from the virus.

Why is Spain taking so long to decide on booster doses for adults under 40?

Aside from their rigid MO and reliance on vaccine deliveries from the EU, Spanish authorities may also be dragging their heels on this because Omicron has thrown their previous train of thought out of the window, and now they’re not sure how best to act next.

With 3 percent of the country’s population having contracted the virus over the past two weeks and a record high infection rate, everything from the booster’s efficiency after illness, to the quarantine periods and how to classify the virus are now being called into question. 

READ MORE: Spain’s health experts divided over whether Covid-19 should be treated like flu

Nonetheless, there’s a high likelihood that people aged 30 to 39 will be included in Spain’s booster shot plans over the course of January, or at least informed of when they will be.

In order for people in Spain in their thirties and twenties not to be faced with the prospect of their Covid certificates becoming invalid for travel in the EU, most of them would need to have received a Covid-19 booster shot by March or April 2022 to avoid this scenario.

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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.