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COVID-19 STATS

Nine under-the-radar Covid news stories from Spain you may have missed 

Here is some of the more underreported coronavirus news in Spain in February, from vaccine side-effects, to new Covid-fighting treatments being developed and other interesting information flying under the radar.

SPAIN COVID NEWS
As of early February, ICUs in Spain are starting to discharge more Covid patients than they are admitting to hospital. Photo: Alberto PIZZOLI/AFP

You may have heard that face masks outdoors will soon no longer be mandatory in Spain and that the country’s infection rate has dropped below 2,000 cases per 100,000 cases for first time since December, but there is plenty of other insightful Covid news from Spain which we’ll offer you in bite-sized sections below. 

Pace of child vaccination campaign slows down 

Despite a promising start to the Covid-19 inoculations for children aged 5 to 11 in Spain which began in mid-December, in recent weeks the rate of children getting vaccinated has slowed down considerably. 

Pedro Sánchez’s government had set itself the target of having vaccinated 70 percent of children in this age group by this week, but this target now seems out of reach with 55 percent of 5 to 11 year olds with one dose.

130 people die from Covid-19 in Spain every day

Covid-19 vaccines have helped reduce deaths and serious cases drastically, although the ongoing high incidence under the Omicron variant has ensured that daily deaths remain high. Over the weekend, 335 more deaths were reported, taking the total to more than 94,500 since the pandemic began.  

Sunday 13th will mark two years since the first Covid death in Spain, and since then the average daily number of deaths in Spain is 130. 

For comparison’s sake, the number of flu deaths in Spain in 2019 – which was higher than almost all previous years – was 15,000, around 41 a day. 

Two new vaccines on the way, one of them Spanish 

Hipra is the first Spanish vaccine against the coronavirus to enter the final trial phase, and the pharmaceutical company it gets its name from defends that clinical tests show better results against the Omicron variant in booster doses than the Pfizer vaccine.

Then there’s Novavax, developed in the US and authorised by the EU in late December, which is also scheduled to be offered as a booster shot to people in Spain during this first semester of 2022.

Covid chewing gum, anyone?

A group of Spanish researchers have developed a chewing gum that they claim helps stop the spread of coronavirus and other viruses through the mouth.

Their chewing gum releases high initial concentrations of acids that cause a sudden drop in PH in the mouth, acting in a similar way to a face mask or hydraulic gel in creating a barrier from infection.

You can expect to see it in chemists in Spain in February and March, although there is no national scientific study yet which confirms its efficacy. 

A new test to determine if you need to get a booster shot

An immunologist and an allergist from the University Hospital of the Canary Islands have created a test which is capable of determining the state of our cellular immunity.

The aim of the test is to establish whether or not we really need a new booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at a certain time. It is similar to other dermal tests for infections such as tuberculosis.

This test, which is yet to hit the market, could save time and money and can be especially useful in certain populations such as transplant and cancer patients. 

First person to sue for Covid vaccine side-effects 

A 62-year-old woman from Cádiz is the first person in Spain to file a legal complaint against Spain’s health system after suffering health problems following her first AstraZeneca vaccine back in April 2021. 

Since then, she has reportedly suffered from headaches, blurred vision, bleeding, blood clots and a heart attack. Her lawyer claims there was no valid consent to be vaccinated on her part due to the absence of information given to her about possible side effects and alternative vaccines.

Spain stopped receiving AstraZeneca vaccines last July after around 20 cases of blood clots of the roughly million people vaccinated with the Anglo-Swedish inoculation. 

 

Spain has donated 50 million vaccine does, but half of them haven’t been delivered

Through the Covax vaccination sharing mechanism, Spain has managed to donate 50 million vaccines, 22 million of which are destined for Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa. The majority of these vaccines are AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and Moderna doses.

But as of January 21st, only 26 million have reached their destination. Distribution problems, a lack of syringe supplies and safety measures as well as the complex multi-step process involved in donating have been given as reasons for these delays. 

Almost a million unused Covid doses expired in 2021

Unfortunately, more than 934,000 doses, mainly AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, were not put to good use and expired before they could be administered, the Spanish government recently admitted. 

Spain to stop reporting on myocarditis from Covid-19 vaccines 

The Spanish Agency for Medicines and Health Products (Aemps), the body responsible for keeping track of the possible side-effects experienced after Covid-19 vaccination, has stopped publishing details on new cases of myocarditis and pericarditis after inoculation.

So far, such data has been published on a monthly basis, but not in the latest report, with Aemps justifying the decision by saying that this is their MO for all identified adverse reactions from other medical treatments.  

“Aemps continues to count the cases of myocarditis and pericarditis, but since it is an adverse reaction already known and with an established incidence , the cases are not included in the public report”, the medical body wrote.

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COVID-19 STATS

Outbreak or seventh wave? Health experts divided as Covid cases rise in Spain

Spain’s decision to stop counting all infections has some epidemiologists arguing health authorities are turning a blind eye to rising cases. But is the country truly heading towards a seventh wave?

Outbreak or seventh wave? Health experts divided as Covid cases rise in Spain

Three weeks since the Easter holidays came to a close and the indoor face mask rule was lifted in Spain, the Covid infection rate among over-59s has increased considerably, for most health experts predictably. 

It’s double what it was on April 1st – going from 459 cases per 100,000 up to 813 per 100,000 – and although Covid hospitalisations have risen by 78 percent in a month, pressure on hospitals remains stable. 

Not that this can be considered a complete picture of the epidemiological situation in Spain as the health ministry decided last March it would stop requesting data from the regions for infections among under-60s. 

This is part of the Spanish government’s plan of managing Covid-19 in a similar way to other endemic diseases such as seasonal influenza. 

The focus in recent weeks has been lifting Covid restrictions, not counting and reporting all Covid infections as frequently and rigorously and keeping a close eye only on the elderly and vulnerable. In a nutshell, returning to life pre-coronavirus.

But for some epidemiologists, the 55,578 new infections and 234 Covid deaths in the past week are indicative of the fact that the virus is still raging strong and that the end of Covid rules may have come too soon.

“We’re not facing a silent wave of the pandemic.  We’re walking blindfolded into a new wave, we don’t want to see it and we don’t want to name it,” Daniel López-Acuña, former director of emergencies at the World Health Organisation, told public broadcaster RTVE.

“There is a considerable rise in the infection rate, and  a rise in the infection rate sustained over time is a new wave, whether you want to call it that or not , López-Acuña added, arguing that if the incidence in under-60s were also analysed, “we would see the same infection rate or greater”.

Epidemiologist Quique Bassat argues that although there is talk among health experts of a seventh wave, “what we don’t know is how long it will last and if this is the beginning of what will end up being a seventh wave, or if it’s really just a new outbreak.” 

For Bassat, who is regularly interviewed on La Sexta and Antena 3 news, a rise in cases after the Easter holidays and the removal of face masks indoors is “what was expected”, but that “doesn’t mean that the population should be scared” and it “isn’t necessary to change the current strategy” of the health ministry.

“Pressure on healthcare is what has to determine if we should take a step back in the de-escalation of Covid-19 measures,” Bassat concludes.

It’s clear that the Spanish government’s approach to this stage of the pandemic is subject to a variety of opinions among the scientific community.

Some health experts, such as immunologist Matilde Cañelles of Spain’s Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC), consider it “irresponsible” to stop quarantine for positive cases and not count infections when there are still 30 people dying of Covid every day in Spain. 

Others take a more pragmatic approach and call for the fourth dose (second booster) of the Covid-19 booster vaccine to be offered to over-80s in the country as previously suggested, as the infection rate in this group is now over the 1,000 per 100,000 mark.

For epidemiologist Oriol Mitjà, Covid-19 adviser for the Catalan government, the coming weeks will shed more light on how big this coronavirus wave will be.

“Omicron is a variant with vaccine escape and with the potential to infect up to 60-70 percent of the population. 30 percent were infected at Christmas, 30 percent will avoid it and 30 percent can be infected now,” Mitjà tweeted.

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