Court orders cabinet to vaccinate Spanish police at same rate as Catalan Mossos
Catalan health minister bemoans court "interference" after department given 10 days to comply
The Catalan High Court (TSJC) has ruled that the health department must ensure that members of Spain's National Police and Civil Guard forces based in Catalonia are vaccinated at the same rate as the Catalan Mossos d'Esquadra police force.
Authorities have been given 10 days to amend the situation, following the ruling in favor of the policing unions that brought the case.
In Tuesday's ruling, the TSJC ordered the health department "without any excuse, to guarantee immediately and without delay the vaccination against Covid-19" for members of the state security forces.
The Catalan health department told the court that National Police and Civil Guards between the ages of 60 and 65 are being vaccinated and insisted that no discriminatory treatment is taking place.
The court, however, described the figures supplied by the health department as "eloquent." They state that on March 24, 77% of Mossos d'Esquadra, 68.9% of local police and 77.9% of Barcelona's Guàrdia Urbana had been vaccinated. On the other hand, just 3.6% of the National Police and 2.8% of the Civil Guard had been vaccinated.
On April 22, the percentages were 80.3% for the Mossos d'Esquadra, 71.2% for local police, 79.1% for Barcelona's Guàrdia Urbana, 9.9% for the National Police and 6.3% for the Civil Guard.
The court argued that vaccinating the Spanish police forces wouldn't harm any other at-risk groups, "especially if we take into account the new arrival of vaccine doses and the fact that the contingent of the National Police and Civil Guard in Catalonia is small."
Catalan health minister bemoans court interference
Catalonia's health minister, Alba Vergés, bemoaned the court decision, saying that it "interferes" in the vaccination strategy.
"Once again the courts are interfering in the management of the pandemic," she said following the ruling on Tuesday.
Vergés pointed out that the vaccination of essential groups was stopped due to a decision from Spain's health ministry and that later it was again within the framework of Spain's strategy that it was decided to resume giving AstraZeneca vaccines to those over 60.
Vergés stated that they never said that they would not vaccinate the members of the National Police and the Civil Guard stationed in Catalonia, but that "all the essential groups were stopped," while the AstraZeneca vaccine was investigated by the European Medicines Agency.
Similarly, Catalan government spokesperson Meritxell Budó argued that the vaccination of all essential workers had stalled, not only that of Spanish officers. "This is due to the change in AstraZeneca use guidelines," she said on Tuesday.
Compliance will mean delaying vaccines to over 70s
Catalonia will comply with the court order, but it will be at the expense of vaccinating people over 70, public health secretary Josep Maria Argimon explained at a press conference on Tuesday.
"If we dedicate ourselves to vaccinating essential staff, we will stop vaccinating people over 60 or 70," he said.
Argimon also categorically denied that health professionals have "discriminated" against security forces and stressed that they care for and attend to everyone equally.
"Not on grounds of age, nor gender, nor belief, nor anything else... it doesn't matter what profession they have," he insisted.