Spain will resume administering the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccination from Wednesday next week.
The Inter-Territorial Council of the National Health System (CISNS) reached this undivided decision during a meeting that took place yesterday. The move comes after European Medicines Agency (EMA) came to the conclusion that the vaccine was safe, amid concerns raised by the European Union that blood clots had been detected after the vaccine had been administered.
Stella Kyriakides, the EU’s Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, said in a statement on Thursday that “As the European Medicines Agency has clearly stated today, the benefits of the vaccine in combating Covid-19 continue to outweigh the risks of side effects. It is an effective and safe vaccine that greatly contributes to the efforts to address the impact of Covid-19 and the very serious health risks of an infection.”
Before restarting Spain’s vaccination campaign, health experts will join forces to determine which sector of residents will receive the AstraZeneca vaccine.
At the outset of the vaccine campaign, the Spanish government opted to only administer the vaccine to those under the age of 55. This was due to the lack of clinical testing in the older age groups. But with the ever-growing scientific proof of the vaccine's effectiveness, the authorities have been talking about raising the age group. They will also run through the EMA’s latest conclusions and make the decision as to whether any particular age group should be excluded from having the AstraZeneca vaccination. The CISNS will gather on Monday to discuss these reports and make a decisive decision on how to further proceed.
It looks like, with the data that is available, the Spanish authorities will raise the age group for those who will receive the AstraZeneca inoculation to over 55. The cases of people with blood clots have been detected mainly in women around the age of 40, although it must be said that there is no evidence that this is a direct link to the medication.
In the United Kingdom, the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is being administered to all age groups, yet fewer blood clot cases have been reported than in the EU.
At the start of this week, Spain had chosen to suspend the administering of the AstraZeneca vaccination and the Health Minister Carolina Darias said that a decision would be made as to how the country would move forward, once the EMA had reached its conclusions.
The suspension of the vaccine came after several European countries, including Spain, discovered cases of Cerebral Venous Sinus Thrombosis (blood clotting in the brain), after the vaccine had been administered. Despite the EMA stating that the benefits of having the vaccination far outweighed the risks, around 15 European countries chose to suspend the inoculations until these cases were studied in depth.
After the EMA’s conclusions, France, Germany, Italy and Portugal also plan to reintroduce the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Although this is all good news, some experts now fear that the vaccine may be rejected by some people. José María Martín Moreno, a doctor in epidemiology and public health from Harvard University, believes that a situation of “mistrust” has been created with “confusing” communication. He went on to explain “The population is scared that this vaccine could be dangerous and there has not been a unified response from European countries at the time for action. For citizens, this creates total confusion, and they don’t know what they should believe.”
Although The European Medicines Agency insists that the benefits of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccination far outweigh the risks, it has not entirely ruled out the association with very rare cases of blood clots that are related to Thrombocytopenia, a condition that is characterised by abnormally low levels of platelets in the blood.
The EMA is putting warning labels on the products information, stating that anyone who receives the vaccine and notices any of the symptoms related to the condition, should seek emergency treatment.
Ángela Domínguez, Coordinator of the Vaccination Working Group from the Spanish Epidemiological Society, says that processes like these should create confidence among the public because they are a sign that “the pharmacovigilance monitoring system works.” She also added that “the benefits of the vaccines should be explained in order to create confidence among the population.”
According to the latest data provided by the Spanish Health Ministry, a total of 7,684,265 Covid-10 vaccinations have been distributed across the country’s regions. 5,993,363 (78%) of these have been administered. Across the country, a total of 1,886,813 people have received the two doses required to give full protection from the virus. The three vaccinations given have been the Oxford-AstraZeneca, Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech.
By the summer of this year, the Spanish government’s aim is to vaccinate 70% of its 46.7 million residents.
So far Spain’s campaign has focused on care home residents and staff, healthcare professionals, those over 80 years of age and essential workers, including law enforcement and teachers among others.
The Spanish government's latest coronavirus report that was released on Thursday, shows a total of 6,216 new infections have been registered by Spain’s regions and 117 Covid-19 deaths were added to the overall total. This now stands at 72,910 since the pandemic began. Over the last seven days, 410 people died after testing positive for the virus.
At the same time, the 14-day cumulative number of coronavirus cases per 100,000 inhabitants rose slightly for the second day in a row, from 127.91 to 128.17 and Madrid still remains the region with the highest incidence, which on Thursday came in at 225.34.