Updated 15 January 2021: Regional President Ángel Torres has said today that all the first doses have been given of the vaccine that has been delivered to the Canaries and that the second doses will start to be given from Sunday. Torres said that the group that had been vaccinated was the priority 1 group of those heavily dependent on or in intensive or residential nursing care, plus workers in that sector. The national Government’s vaccine strategy is explained in THIS working paper, and after the first group has received its second vaccination, attention will turn to the second, that of healthcare professionals and frontline workers. While this is ongoing, those in other priority groups and then the rest of the public need to wait to be called for. As the Government has already explained, the vaccination will only be available through the national health system, but Sanidad has unofficially confirmed that it will be available for all legal residents.
There is one group, therefore, that sticks out a mile as falling between two stools – those who are fully legal residents here but who have private medical insurance, not only a perfectly legal category but one actually demanded by the immigration services for those registering without state health system eligibility. This will require private medical insurers to formulate a plan with the Department of Health but currently there is no clear information about how the system will work other than it is very likely to be a matter delegated to the powers of the devolved regional Health authorities. Meanwhile, even those in the national health system have to wait until the priority groups have all been vaccinated anyway.
Updated 30 December 2020: There has been a rush of enquiries about access to the vaccine in Spain, including to the UK authorities and so, to explain, vaccine availability in Spain is a matter for the Spanish Government, so there is absolutely no point in hassling the UK authorities about it. I use the word advisedly because that is what seems to be happening, especially from those with private medical insurance who are here, as swallows or residents, but not in the state health system. The UK cannot help with this!
The response from Spain itself to such enquiries is “ya es pronto”: it is early days so please just wait. The vaccine is being administered solely through the state system, at least at present, so it is self-evident that those not in the health system can’t access it, at least at present! There are millions of vaccines still to arrive throughout next year, and the priority system is still being drawn up, so all that’s actually known right now is which group is top priority, and they have started to receive their vaccinations.
Everyone else has to wait for more vaccines to arrive and for their priority group to be called for vaccination. Anyone not placed in a priority group will have to wait until those with priority are vaccinated first. Apart from that information, no more can be said at present.
Updated 29 December: Spanish Health Minister Salvador Illa has said that his department will compile a national register of those who refuse the new covid19 vaccination. Illa confirmed that the register would be shared with other EU countries but would not be publicized. With an eye no doubt to the easily anticipated reaction from conspiracy theorists, Illa said that the vaccine was not going to be mandatory, and that the register would comprise those who had been offered the vaccine through the priority groupings but who had refused it, their details being treated with maximum respect for data protection legislation. Sanidad has said that only around a quarter of the population is expected to be unwilling to have the vaccine, with a smaller proportion rejecting it outright, and that the register will help to target information and anti-misinformation campaigns.
Updated 26 December: And they’re here, the first covid vaccine doses have arrived in Spain. Un regalo de Navidad como dios manda!
Updated 18 December: Spain will begin covid vaccinations through the national health system on Sunday 27 December, Sanidad (Spain) Minister Salvador Illa announced this morning. Illa said that the necessary doses will arrive at all the country’s autonomous regions then, the day after the initial consignment is itself received in Madrid. The minister stressed that this vital stage gives great hope because it means the start of the end of the pandemic, and an end that is coordinated throughout the whole of Europe with the whole continent starting together. The deliveries will continue, Illa explained, progressively with supplies arriving weekly and with the first recipients being those identified as priority groups in the national Vaccine Strategy (see 27 Nov update below). Ultimately, he assured everyone, there will be enough doses for the whole Spanish population. Tenerife President Ángel Torres confirmed this morning that this will also apply in these islands. The vaccine’s arrival will miss Christmas Day itself but be here in time for the real day of presents when the Three Kings arrive … their Epiphany (appearance) on the Día de los Reyes Magos. What a regalo de Navidad!
Updated 27 November: Sanidad (Spain) has announced some technical details of their covid vaccine strategy. Spanish health minister Salvador Illa said that in order to be able to prioritize, his department had assessed fifteen population groups, identifying four for the first stage of innoculations nationally, with other groups to be prioritized in due course by the Inter-Territorial Council. To start, though, the first four groups prioritized for vaccination, anticipated to be in January to March next year, are residential care sector workers and residents, frontline health staff, other health workers, and other medically dependent individuals not in residential care.
The other groups include the elderly, severely disabled, people living or working in communities or closed environments, those living in socio-economic deprivation, essential workers like teachers, children and adolescents along with pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers, those who are HIV positive, and people living in areas where outbreaks may occur. The assessment for grouping purposes remains open, Illa confirmed, and is subject to continuous adaptation based on available scientific information.
The Health Secretary stressed, however, that this is not going to be a quick process and that vaccination, even when underway, is going to be in stages that will take considerable time. Vaccines in the first stage will be in very limited supplies, and other groups will be immunized according to their prioritization in progressive second and third stages, as vaccine doses arrive and become available, and as information on vaccine characteristics and immunity increases. This is going to go on well into next year, if not beyond, in case anyone was thinking that vaccine availability meant some sort of silver bullet to put an end to covid.
Updated 24 November: As promised, Spanish PM Pedro Sánchez has presented the Government’s vaccination plan this week. He said that Spain was perfectly ready to begin administering the vaccines as soon as they’re available. The public can be absolutely certain, the PM said, that all doses used are secure. Releasing the video below, the Government says that the main objective, naturally, of the campaign is to reduce morbidity and mortality caused by the virus by providing progressively availabile vaccines and protecting the most vulnerable groups with the order of priority established by the national health system’s Inter-territorial Council based on ethical considerations and risk criteria.
The overall strategy will be coordinated by this Inter-territorial Council, which comprises the national and regional Governments. Sanidad (Spain) will acquire the required number of doses for Spain within the framework of the European strategy whereby several advance purchase agreements for vaccines have already been reached, new ones still being negotiated. The vaccines will be administered free of charge through the national health system.
The vaccine used will have the same safety levels as any of the commonly used vaccines. Efficacy levels will meet the standards required for authorized use, with guaranteed optimal storage, distribution and administration of the vaccines ensuring their quality throughout the process. The overall plan will also ensure coordination between national and regional Governments for vaccination centres taking into account the experience of Primary Care in the different systems in place in the devolved health powers throughout the autonomous communities, as well as providing tools for monitoring and evaluating the coverage, safety and effectiveness of the vaccination programme.
In this respect, work is already underway on a single registry that will collect vaccination data from across the country, interoperable with others implemented in the pandemic. A communication strategy will be implemented to help ensure that access to vaccination is effective, equitable and developed with full respect for transparency, the overall object being to generate a high level of confidence that will translate into improved coverage.
El Gobierno presenta la Estrategia de Vacunación #COVID19.
Su principal objetivo👉🏻Disminuir la morbilidad y mortalidad causada por el virus mediante la utilización de vacunas, en un contexto de disponibilidad progresiva y protegiendo a los grupos más vulnerables.
Más detalles⤵️ pic.twitter.com/lwaXXIBBl7
— La Moncloa (@desdelamoncloa) November 24, 2020
Original post 20 November: Spanish PM Pedro Sánchez has said today that Spain will be the first EU country, together with Germany, in having a Vaccination Plan against covid19. Sánchez said that he’ll be presenting the plan to Cabinet next week, with the idea that a significant sector of the population will be vaccinated in the first half of 2021. No doubt after that meeting we’ll have some meat to put on the bare bones of the announcement, which is all we have right now.
Original post 10 November: Spanish Health minister Salvador Illa, on television this morning, has said that he thinks the announcement of a potential vaccine from Pfizer is promising and significant. Illa said that assuming clinical trials do indeed result in the vaccine being approved, Spain will be able to provide 10m immunizations free of charge from early 2021. The country intends to buy 20m initial doses, Illa explained, but each person will require two vaccinations.
Illa said that he imagined that the elderly and frontline workers would be first to be offered the vaccine but that a working group had been established to consider this and the decision had not yet been made. Also under consideration is the way in which to deal with antivax conspiracy theories, with the vaccine not intended to be compulsory in the first instance but with the Government prepared to take action against liars and the anti-scientific as needed. The minister refused to rule out the possibility that vaccination would become compulsory but said he felt sure that the public would overwhelmingly behave with sense and responsibility because people generally understood perfectly well that vaccines worked and have brought some diseases under good control or, in some cases, eradicated them completely.
We can begin to see a light at the end of the tunnel after some very hard months, said the Minister, confirming strongly again that the Government will act emphatically against “those who lie and promote pseudoscience”.