Covid-19: Spain’s vaccination campaign extends to adolescents amid fears of the delta strain | Society
Vaccination centers in Spain are now filling up with adolescents who, accompanied by their parents, are waiting to receive their first vaccine against Covid-19. Ten of the Spanish regions – which are in charge of the vaccination campaign as well as containing the pandemic on their territory – now vaccinate the population 12-19. The only regions that do not yet vaccinate on a large scale those under 20 are Cantabria, Castile and LeÃ³n, Valencia, Extremadura, Galicia and La Rioja.
The 12-19 age group is made up of 3.8 million people, 17.9% of whom have already received their first dose. If the vaccine rollout keeps pace with expected, most adolescents will be fully immunized in time for the start of the new school year.
In Catalonia, the regional government opened the vaccination campaign for 12-15 year olds on Wednesday. Brothers Ãscar and Pablo Pons, aged 15 and 13 respectively, were lining up that day in Barcelona to get their first pictures. âI was a little scared at first, but it went perfectly, you hardly notice it when you inject yourself,â says one of them. “We couldn’t wait to get vaccinated,” added the other.
Spanish regions also continue to vaccinate 30-50 year olds, most of whom receive their second injection, and 20-29 year olds, half of whom have already received their first dose. Spain continues to have one of the highest proportions of fully vaccinated people of any major country in the world, with 58.6% of the population fully vaccinated.
The risk of adolescents developing a severe case of Covid-19 is very low, but not inexistent. According to the latest figures from the Carlos III Health Institute, since June 22, 2020, 878 people aged 10 to 19 have been hospitalized with Covid-19. Of this number, 160 required intensive care and 17 died.
Ãngel HernÃ¡ndez Merino, of the Spanish Pediatric Society’s Vaccine Advisory Committee, says this is a “very low” number compared to older groups, but “very high” in terms of social cost. For this reason, most Western countries choose to vaccinate adolescents.
In the UK, however, authorities have so far only immunized 16- and 17-year-olds and younger adolescents with health conditions that make them vulnerable to Covid-19. British experts say it is not clear whether the risks of the vaccine outweigh the benefits. One of their concerns, among others, is that isolated cases of pericarditis (inflammation of the fibrous sac surrounding the heart) and myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) – both usually mild – have been detected in adolescents following the vaccination.
But until a strong link between the vaccine and these side effects is established, HernÃ¡ndez Merino says the risk of coronavirus is much greater. “It is difficult to make certain families understand this, because if they think that the risk of infection is low, they attach little importance to the risk of contagion,” he explained.
The decision to vaccinate adolescents comes amid growing concerns about how the spread of the most contagious strains of coronavirus, such as delta, will affect efforts to achieve group immunity.
Spain is on track to meet its goal of fully vaccinating 70% of the population by mid-August, but experts warn that due to the new variants, that figure must now be above 90%. “Achieve collective immunity without them [adolescents] is practically impossible, âexplained Manuel Franco, spokesperson for the Spanish Society of Public Health.
Even so, it will be difficult to fully immunize more than 80% of the population as no vaccine has yet been approved for children under 12 (who make up 11% of the population), and around 4% of people are against vaccination, while others have little interest in doing so or cannot, for example because of health problems or difficulties in accessing the health system.
As transmission rates decline, Spain continues to report thousands of new cases of the coronavirus. According to the latest report from the Ministry of Health, 21,874 new infections were recorded on Wednesday and 71 deaths were added to the official toll. The cumulative number of cases over 14 days per 100,000 inhabitants now stands at 653, down 20 points since Tuesday. The Balearic Islands continue to have the highest incidence rate, with 904 cases per 100,000, followed by Navarre (766) and La Rioja (756).
Contagions among the population aged 20 to 29 also continue to increase. As of Wednesday, the 14-day cumulative number of cases per 100,000 in that group stood at 1,387, an increase of 171 points in a single day. A total of 10,184 people are hospitalized with Covid-19 and 20.76% of all intensive care beds are occupied by Covid-19 patients. Since the start of the pandemic, 4,545,184 people have contracted the virus, while the official death toll stands at 81,844.
english version by Melissa Kitson.