Spain Starts Vaccination Against Coronavirus

Nine months after the COVID-19 pandemic broke out uncontrollably and changed our way of living and relating, Spain begins vaccination against the coronavirus. It will do so with a first batch of Pfizer / Biontech doses, the only one currently endorsed by the European Union, which have arrived in Guadalajara this Saturday and which will be distributed to all communities to start the initial phase of the plan in nursing homes , severely beaten. The first vaccines will be given at 9:00 am on Sunday 27 at the Los Olmos public residence, in the Castilian-Manchega city. They will be administered to the oldest resident and the youngest worker at the center.

Although the secrecy about the operation has been almost total for security reasons, the first doses have already arrived this Saturday at the facilities that Pfizer has in Guadalajara, where technicians from the Spanish Agency for Medicines and Health Products have received them for certification . A military team has collected the trays that correspond to the Canary Islands, the Balearic Islands, Ceuta and Melilla to transport them to those territories by air, while the rest will arrive by road.

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After this first symbolic distribution, from Monday there will be weekly deliveries to the around 50 points enabled by each community. In total they will receive 4.5 million doses in 12 weeks, 350,000 every seven days, with which it is expected to cover 2.3 million people – it requires two doses separated by 21 days. It is almost the total number of people in the first phase, which will focus on users and workers of residences, first-line toilets, other toilets and large dependents.

Then the rest of the groups will come, 15 in total, in two other stages until summer and with the aim of reaching the general population. It is an unprecedented vaccination for which Spain has never before required a similar health and logistical deployment and which has anticipated what was initially planned after the European Medicines Agency (EMA) brought forward its meeting to give the go-ahead to the December 21.

The communities have organized their devices to start “at the beginning of the end to defeat this damn virus”, in the words of the Minister of Health, Salvador Illa. This is not a simple task. The complexities of Pfizer’s serum make it require various technical requirements due, among other things, to its conservation at very low temperatures, between -60º and -80º. They will arrive in refrigerators, with charred snow, which may contain a maximum and depending on what is required up to five trays with 1,000 vials each, that is, with enough for 5,000 punctures. Its application is also a challenge for the health workers who will administer them, and who this week have requested “specific training” for it.

The Community of Madrid, which is going to receive 48,750 doses every week, will have two centers for receiving the vaccine and three deep freezers spread over two warehouses. From there they will go to the vaccination points, where there will be a person responsible for their custody until the administration. On Sunday, vaccination will begin in three residences in the capital that have been selected for their size, and which host a greater number of people. In Catalonia, where it will start in a residence in L’Hospitalet, it is expected that 60,000 doses will arrive every Monday that will administer up to 25 teams of about 500 nurses and administrative staff.

Some 16,000 are those that the Basque Country will receive each week. In Navarra, which will begin with a residence in Pamplona this Sunday, the doses will be stored at a point with deep freezing from where they will be distributed daily, in special isothermal transport conta iners, to the vaccination points scheduled for each day. The Valencian Community will begin with the first symbolic remittance in seven centers for the elderly in which there have been no cases of coronavirus and from Monday 28 will receive 30,000 doses a week.

According to Health, the distribution will be “equitable” and based on the target population, that is, the one expected to be vaccinated in the first phase, and not the total. The Region of Murcia has reported that it will have 12,675 weekly doses, a quantity slightly higher than that of Aragon (12,000), which will store the vaccines in a single point, the Lozano Blesa University Clinical Hospital. There will be two ultra-freezers, from which they will depart for health centers “through three urban routes in the city of Zaragoza and 15 other routes in the rest of the territory,” as reported by the Aragonese Government.

In Andalusia, 45 health centers and 37 hospitals composed of 177 teams will be vaccinated, but 73 of these will be mobile to move to residences in this first phase. Galicia, for its part, has arranged that a team of 200 nurses will go two by two to each senior center and that this Sunday, the first to receive it will be a residence in Santiago. It will be in the capital where there will be a single storage point, in a logistics center that will distribute the 18,000 vaccines that will arrive weekly, according to forecasts, to the rest of the community.

Spain thus enters a historic vaccination campaign. And it does so coinciding with a growing trend in cases since the beginning of December – the accumulated incidence already exceeds 250 cases per 100,000 inhabitants – and in the middle of the Christmas holidays. An epidemiological situation far from ideal and that may pose some difficulties in terms of logistics or communication, but not in substance, according to experts.

What begins this Sunday is the first phase of a plan that will have two other general stages that will last until, at least, June 2021. Ministry of Health, communities and experts designed a division into groups that will receive the customized vaccine that more doses are received from both Pfizer and the following authorized serums: the closest will be Moderna, which has already been approved in the US and whose evaluation by the European Medicines Agency is expected on January 6, and the Oxford / Astrazeneca review process is still awaiting its review.

The groups in which the 47 million of the Spanish population have been divided include those over 64 years of age, people with pre-existing pathologies, those who work in closed environments, socioeconomically vulnerable groups, essential workers, teachers, children, adolescents and young people from the age of 16, adults, groups living in areas with outbreaks, pregnant women and people with some acquired immunity due to having been positive for SARS-CoV-2.

The Government’s idea is to reach “100% of the population,” according to the Minister of Health, Salvador Illa, at the time. However, vaccination will not be mandatory as expressly stated in the latest update of the plan. The director of the Health Emergency Center, Fernando Simón, has commented that group immunity can be achieved when 70 or 75% of the population is immunized, according to previous experiences. A closer “horizon” will be in May, when Health foresees having vaccinated about ten million people, so that the control of the virus will not be total, but it will be quite relevant.

Precisely on December 21, the Sociological Research Center offered new information about the reluctance or willingness of the Spanish to receive the doses already imminent. The trend has turned in a more favorable direction in less than a month. The barometer indicated that the reluctants have fallen from assuming 47% to almost half: 28%. However, the Health plan is to record the reasons of those who refuse to get the vaccine in order to adapt their communication campaigns and prioritization of groups.

Beyond the beginning of the first phase, the idea is that as the arrival flow of sera increases and from more manufacturers, the vaccination rate accelerates and that this first group immunity is built for the summer of next year.

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