40% of Catalan population vaccinated by June, estimates health department

Authorities suggest annual single Covid-19 jab might be needed 

A nurse preparing a Covid-19 vaccine dose in Girona on February 18, 2021 (by Aleix Freixas)
A nurse preparing a Covid-19 vaccine dose in Girona on February 18, 2021 (by Aleix Freixas) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

February 23, 2021 12:51 PM

The Catalan health department estimates that around 40% of the Catalan population will be vaccinated by June – if the doses expected arrive on time.

A senior official, Clara Cabezas, said in a RAC1 radio interview on Tuesday that this share of residents would include those people that could suffer more symptoms if they contracted the disease – due to their age or other conditions.

She said that their estimations could change if the number of doses they receive is not as expected, or the EU gives the go-ahead to other vaccines, such as Janssen's – if the restriction to administer the AstraZeneca vaccine to under 55s only is lifted by Spain, the order of vaccinations could also change.

So far, a majority of care home residents and workers – 80.5% and 60.5%, respectively, as of February 16 – have received both doses, while health professionals have also been receiving the jab for some weeks.

Priority groups to be vaccinated by June

As the first phase of the vaccination plan is coming to an end – care home residents and workers and healthcare professionals – the second is already underway with over 80s, and also essential workers under 55, who will receive the AstraZeneca vaccine.

According to the official, those older than 80 will have received at least the first dose by the end of March "or before."

These two groups, together with the people especially at-risk estimated at 1.8 million, are expected to be inoculated by June.

Also before the beginning of summer, Cabezas said that her department aims to vaccinate the over 70s, the over 60s and then the under 60s with a medical condition – those between 45 and 55 would go next with the AstraZeneca vaccine once essential workers are all vaccinated.

The third and last phase includes all residents and is planned to begin immediately afterwards.

Vaccination pace

On February 5, the health minister Alba Vergés said that "the system is ready for 150,000 doses per day" and added that the aim of immunizing 70% of residents by the end of summer would be possible, "pending on the EU complying" with the supply of doses it has committed to.

Yet, for now, as of February 22, 321,268 residents have been given the first dose of the vaccine, 4.16% of the total population. Out of those, 184,161 have also been administered the second dose (2.38% of the total population).

This seemingly slow pace is due to delays in the delivery of doses, according to the health department.

For instance, this week 60,000 Moderna doses were expected, but only 32,000 will arrive, and not until the weekend of February 27-28 or March 1.

Likewise, 90,000 doses of AstraZeneca were expected last week, but only 60,000 ended up being shipped.

Given the disrupted delivery of doses, the public health secretary, Josep Maria Argimon, said last Wednesday that some Pfizer jabs are being reserved and not administrated in order to make sure that those who received the first dose can get the second one at the appropriate time.

Annual Covid-19 vaccine

During the interview, Cabezas also pointed out that the health department is not ruling out the need to repeat the vaccination plan every year, similar to the flu jab.

She said that the annual jab would probably be updated with the new virus variants, and a single dose would be sufficient.