Covid-19: Spain risks missing August vaccination target as vaccination rate slows | Society

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A health worker vaccinates a teenager in Valencia.Jorge Gil / Europa Press

Spain tops the list of countries vaccinating their populations against Covid-19 the fastest, but the pace of the process has slowed significantly over the past month. The campaign reached new heights in the second week of July, when more than half a million people were vaccinated each day and 379,000 people received their second injection. But since then, the latter figure has steadily declined: 272,000 second doses administered each day at the end of July, 189,000 in the first half of August and 172,000 during the last seven days. In just five weeks, the rate has dropped by 55%.

At the current rate, Spain will not meet its target of 70% of the population fully vaccinated before September. Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez of the Socialist Party (PSOE) had promised that this step would be taken by the end of August. This percentage was believed to be necessary to achieve collective immunity in Spain, but given the emergence of the more contagious delta variant, it has become a more symbolic target. Experts believe that vaccination coverage of more than 80% will be necessary, and many doubt that herd immunity can be obtained.

According to the latest figures from the Ministry of Health, 29,794,008 people in Spain now benefit from the full coverage offered by the vaccines used (Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Janssen and Oxford-AstraZeneca). This represents 62.8% of the total population, and 70.7% of those aged 12 and over, i.e. citizens currently eligible for Covid-19 vaccines. There are still nearly 3.4 million people to travel before Spain reaches 33.2 vaccinated citizens, or 70% of the country’s inhabitants. At the rate of the first doses administered since mid-July – more than 1.3 million per week – and taking into account the difference between the two injections – 21 days for Pfizer and 28 for Moderna – the month of August will end with just over 32 million people fully immunized, a million people below the target.

The head of preventive medicine at the Hospital Clínic de Barcelona, ​​Antoni Trill, explains: “Given the circumstances, it would be very good news to reach 70% at the start of the school year. It is generally said that the last kilometers are the hardest, because it is easier and faster to vaccinate those who are already motivated. We have started very well, but we are seeing a worrying slowdown in the vaccination rate, especially among those under 50.

We can expect a return at a good speed once people return from their vacation

Elena Vanessa Martínez, President of the Spanish Society of Epidemiology

The summer holidays, the lower perception of the risk of Covid-19 among the youngest and the magnitude of the fifth wave – which means that those who have been recently infected with the coronavirus will have to wait several months before they can get themselves. get vaccinated – are the reasons given by experts and administrations to explain this slowdown.

Faced with this situation, regions such as Catalonia and the Basque Country have decided to reduce the time between an infection and the administration of a vaccine from six to two months. Murcia further reduced the deadline to four weeks, while Galicia, Madrid, Valencia and the Balearic Islands have confirmed to EL PAÍS that they plan to do the same.

For Elena Vanessa Martínez, president of the Spanish Society of Epidemiology (SEE), the holiday season is at the root of this slowdown, as Spanish citizens have to be vaccinated in their own region. “I don’t think it’s a rejection problem, which is minimal,” she says. “We can expect a return to good speed once people get back from vacation.”

The slowing pace of the campaign coincided with an increase in the availability of vaccine doses. This contrasts with the situation observed at the beginning of the summer, when there were more people waiting for vaccination than doses available. While in mid-July, regions took concrete measures to attract the unvaccinated – that is, those who had not been vaccinated when it was their turn – from the month of August, they were looking for anyone who could get the vaccine.

While there are minor differences between regions, the common elements are that the campaign is now open to all people aged 12 and over – none of the vaccines have so far been approved for younger people. In addition, the process has opened up with units that do not require prior appointment and have longer hours.

Elena Vanessa Martínez believes that “this is a good strategy, which also facilitates access to the vaccine for people who, for personal, professional or other reasons, cannot always access the health system in the conditions of a prior appointment ”.

The lowest attendance for vaccinations is in the 20-30 age group, but we can’t call that a rejection. They don’t come for reasons of work, travel, vacation

Spokesperson for the Castilla-La Mancha region

The scientific literature has traditionally differentiated between the two most difficult profiles to vaccinate. The first are anti-vaccines. The majority position for this group is that it is not worth spending time trying to convince them, given that in Spain they are very few in number and cannot be convinced because they do not respond to a rational approach . The second are the hesitant to the vaccine. Trilla explains that these are “people who have doubts about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines. They want more information and it is important to offer it to them because they usually respond well to specific explanations.

The expert also draws attention to a third profile: the apathetic. “We’re finding out now,” he explains. “These are people who do not feel challenged, who are not very interested, who have other priorities… It is not so much a question of information as of motivation. With these people, it would be convenient to seek out personalities with charisma and notoriety among different population groups in order to involve them in the campaign.

There is hardly any information available on which collectives or population groups have the lowest vaccination rates. Data offered by some regions confirms that outright vaccine rejection in Spain is very low, around 1%, and there are other reasons behind the current slowdown.

“The lowest attendance for vaccinations is in the 20-30 age group, but we cannot speak of rejection,” said a spokesperson for the Castilla-La Mancha region. “They do not come for reasons of work, travel, vacation …” In the Basque Country, meanwhile, the segment presenting the most difficulties is that of 30-39 years, according to sources of the regional health service. Other regions, such as Galicia, also point the finger at those under 40.

With a report of Bernat Coll, Pedro Gorospe, Eva Saiz, Cristina Vázquez and Sonia Vizoso.

english version by Simon Hunter.



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