Spain’s vaccine rollout has been given a boost after the country received 196,800 doses of the new Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine on Saturday.
The vaccine, which was given the green light by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and approved by the European Union on January 29, will be the third vaccine to be used within Spain’s vaccination program.
The other two vaccines currently being given to Spanish citizens are the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna jabs.
The AstraZeneca vaccine is different from the others in that it is a viral vector vaccine which stimulates an immune response creating antibodies to fight the S protein in SARS-CoV-2 virus.
This type of vaccine has previously been used to combat other potentially deadly viruses including Ebola and Zika.
Vaccine will not be given to over 55s
However, according to the Health Ministry, the vaccine, which will require 10-12 weeks between the first and second doses, will not be given to those over the age of 55 due to doubts over its efficacy.
Studies suggest that the vaccines efficacy rate stands at just 60 per cent compared to 90 per cent for the other vaccines.
In a statement, the Health Ministry said, "The public health commission, at a meeting on Friday and following scientific evidence, has approved setting as 55 the maximum age for people to get the AstraZeneca vaccine against Covid-19.”
In a tweet published on Saturday, the Ministry said: “Last week, the German vaccines authority advised against using AstraZeneca's vaccine for the over 65s, judging that there was "not enough data" on its effectiveness in this age group.”
France also followed suit on Tuesday along with Austria, Belgium, The Netherlands and Sweden who have also taken similar steps. Switzerland also doubts the vaccine’s efficacy calling for “additional studies” to be carried out. Italy approved the vaccine, although it recommends an alternative on those over 55.
On Thursday, The Dutch Health Council said that the vaccine's efficacy in people aged over 55 was ‘unclear’ because only a small number of that age group took part in the clinical trials.
The decision was announced just hours after the EMA said the vaccine should be used in adults of all ages, saying it believed it would be safe for older people too.
The country’s vaccine program continues to gather pace with the government aiming to distribute more than 4 million doses of the three vaccines throughout February.
Up until Monday 2, February, 1,988,160 doses have now been administered with 682,909 people already having received both of their vaccines.
The news comes as the country reported another 584 deaths from the virus on Friday bringing the total to 61,386 with 2,913,425 confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic.