How does Catalonia feel about the Covid-19 vaccine?
Vaccine approval rate more than doubles in past two months
With the various Covid-19 vaccines being rolled out, the debate surrounding whether to take the jab or not has flared up throughout the country. In the latest survey done by CIS, published on February 18, 82.9% of Spaniards were willing to be vaccinated just hitting the benchmark for herd immunity.
In December those happy to receive the jab had been at only 40.5%, so what has changed, and why are a small minority still reticent?
The vaccination campaign began in Catalonia on December 27, 2020. The rollout has been relatively slow in the area due to various delays, including the freezers needed to store the jab being stuck in Dover at the start of the process and various delays in shipments.
Nonetheless, every day the percentage of the population vaccinated slowly increases. As of February 18, 2021, 277,091 residents have been given the first dose of the vaccine, 3.59% of the total population. Out of those, 176,212 have also been administered the second dose (2.28% of the total population).
In data released in January, 6% of care home workers, 4.3% of at-risk cases, and 1% of health workers opted not to take a dose.
The February 18 CIS poll found that a third of those who would not be willing to receive a dose argue that they do not trust the vaccines, and around 20% is afraid of side effects.
Out of the 11 people interviewed by Catalan News in mid-February, six said they would get the vaccine, one was unsure and four would not.
Fear surrounding Covid-19 vaccine
Many of those who wanted to get the vaccine expressed that they saw it as the only way for society to return to normal, that it was the necessary route.
However, when it came to those who were unsure or did not want to get the jab, the same worry cropped up; the idea that the vaccine was created quickly and this, in turn, made it unsafe.
"There is a proportion of people that are questioning what is happening and they need information. Once they get this information they'll get more comfortable with making a decision."
Silvia de Sanjosé · head of the Cancer Epidemiology Research Programme at the Catalan Oncologic Institute
In regards to this fear articulated by the general population, de San José said “the results of the different trials that have evaluated the Covid vaccines have shown a very safe profile, and that is what has reinforced the agencies that regulate the distributions that regulate these treatments.”
Education and awareness raise vaccination
De Sanjosé’s research and past work include the development of the HPV vaccine, a jab that also suffered some controversy and reticence from the public.
From this experience, she has drawn that the most important step in getting individuals to feel more at ease with the process of vaccination was through raising awareness, and educating the public, whilst encouraging them to talk through their concerns with professionals.
With this aim, Catalan Health professionals released a video under the hashtag ‘raonspervacunarme’, to convince others within their sectors to follow through with vaccination and to trust the science behind the jabs.
Survey results do not match with reality
Although there has been reticence, it seems the figures of people getting jabs do not match up to these surveys, which predict nearly 20% of people would not receive the vaccine, and in December of this year pointed at a vaccination rate of only 40%.
“Initially there was a lot of resistance, and when they’ve been offered the available vaccine it has reduced dramatically,” commented de San José, which explains the dramatic change in the CIS results. As the jab becomes a reality and an opportunity to exit the turmoil of the past year - rather than a distant concept - the population sheds their past suspicions.
Data released by the Catalan Health Department on Wednesday showed that in health professionals receiving two doses reduced the risk of becoming ill from Covid-19 by 80%. These figures, as de San José hypothesize, also go to demystify the jab and
Nonetheless, de San José reinforced the need to continue with education and making information available as the rollout process continues.
“When we go into the general population that people that are further away from the impact of this infection and who might say ‘I don’t want to get vaccinated’,” she insisted, however, that this proportion should be small.
Experts are confident that as awareness is raised about its medical benefits and the vaccinated population increases, reticence towards receiving the jab will accordingly decrease.