Spain’s Health Minister Carolina Darias has announced that Covid-19 booster doses will now be given to all over 18-year-olds in a bid to restrain the spread of the sixth coronavirus wave.
On Thursday Spain’s Public Health Commission gave the Health Ministry the green light to approve the third Covid-19 ‘booster’ jabs to all over 18-year-olds in Spain, meaning everyone in their twenties and thirties are now added to the vaccination rollout.
In December of last year, the Health Commission chose to offer the booster vaccine to those in the 40 to 59 age group, having already made them available to older citizens and those in care homes.
Today’s announcement means that the 18 to 39 group will now also be included in the campaign.
This means that approximately 12 million people aged between 18 and 39 in Spain will now be entitled to their booster, although a small number in this category have already had their third vaccine as they work within the healthcare sector.
The ministry and the regions also consented to “reduce the interval” between the second dose and the booster jab “from the six months established to five months,” the Health Minister declared, calling on people of all ages to get their vaccines as “vaccines save lives.”
This move will be a big step for Spain’s vaccine plans, where to date roughly 34 per cent of residents have had their third jabs, a much lower rate than in other European countries, such as Ireland, Italy, Malta and Portugal.
Throughout Spain’s vaccination campaign, people in their 20’s and 30’s have been opposed to getting vaccinated and the latest Health Ministry data that was released on Wednesday shows that one in every five people in these age groups has chosen not to get vaccinated until now. This is a contrast to those in their 40s, where 88.5% have been fully vaccinated and the younger 12 to 19 age group, where the figure is 87.2%.
The vaccination of people aged between 30 and 39 years began at the end of June and the beginning of July, depending on the region in which they live. The 20-29 age group followed a month later.
This means that five months have passed since the first people in these age groups received their second dose meaning they can now receive their third, according to Thursday’s agreement.
This is the time frame set for both the Pfizer-BioNTech and the Moderna mRNA vaccines, which were administered to almost everyone in these age groups. Both of these Vaccines will also be used as a booster, but the one received may not be the same as the one previously given.
After today’s decision, 39.1 million will be eligible for their third booster vaccine, which equates to 82.5% of the total population of Spain.
In early January Spain’s Health Ministry also decided that anyone under the age of 65 who has been infected with Covid-19 will have to wait at least four weeks to be eligible for their booster jab, something some health experts have said makes no sense at all as a person’s natural immunity is at top strength soon after recovering from the Covid virus.
Even though the administering of the booster jabs is moving along at a reasonable pace, with one million people having had theirs in the last week, Spain, along with Portugal, has to some degree been left behind compared to neighbouring countries. A complete contrast to the progress made during the initial vaccination campaign, when both countries were at the top of the tables in the EU.
This is because Spain took longer to administer the third dose to those aged below 60 years. For example, France and Germany began to deliver the booster to all those aged over 18 years back in November.
Figures on the Our World in Data website show that Spain administered 35 booster shots for every 100 residents last Tuesday. This is compared to and is considerably lower than France with 39 for every 100, Italy with 40, Germany with 44, Belgium 46 and Denmark 55 per 100.
And this is also despite the fact that France, Italy and Germany have considerably larger groups of residents that are ‘anti-vaccination’ than Spain does.
The Health Ministry also said on Thursday that Spain is making a fourth Covid-19 vaccine dose available to all “vulnerable citizens”. This includes those who have had a transplant, received dialysis or are fighting cancer.
According to the Ministry, this vaccine would be administered five months after the third dose.
Countries such as Israel and Chile have already started to administer the fourth dose to the general population, under the assumption that it increases by five the number of antibodies against the virus.
However, some virologists in Spain are not convinced by this approach.
“From a basic immunological standpoint, it makes no sense that in little more than a year a fourth dose is being considered,” immunologist Alfredo Corell told Spanish broadcaster RTVE.
“The aim of being vaccinated is to generate memory, not to generate antibodies.
“As long as we have T cells, which are the ones that coordinate the immune response, there isn’t a problem. At most it will take five days, in which we will experience a mild or moderate reaction, a cold”, he concluded.
Spain has been at the forefront globally in terms of vaccinations, with 90.5 per cent of the population aged 12 and above vaccinated to date.
On top of that Spain, which has registered 90,508 deaths and 7.7 million cases during the pandemic, has administered at least one dose to 38.5 per cent of children aged five to 11.
Image Credit: Pool Moncloa/Fernando Calvo