Vaccinating the countryside: traversing mountains on foot to administer vital doses

In Catalonia’s rural Sagarra region all vulnerable over 80s and their carers have received the vaccine, many in their own home

Health professionals walking on a rural pathway delivering vaccines to the village of Ivorra in central Catalonia (by Oriol Bosch)
Health professionals walking on a rural pathway delivering vaccines to the village of Ivorra in central Catalonia (by Oriol Bosch) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

April 11, 2021 11:46 AM

In the largely rural central areas of the Lleida region, the last few vulnerable over 80s and their carers are set to receive the Covid-19 vaccination in the coming days. 

Accessing the countryside, however, has presented some unique challenges for Catalonia’s vaccination program, especially when trying to reach the most vulnerable and isolated rural residents.  

In the hilltop village of Ivorra on Thursday two nurses, Núria García and Neus Sendra, carefully trekked a kilometre up steep streets and along a small path carrying the vaccine in order to administer 87-year-old Masia Molins’ final dose at her own home. 

In order to make sure that everyone who wanted it has been able to access the vaccine, regional health authorities have ensured that the particularly vulnerable in small towns or isolated areas have been able to receive it at home.

In the rural county of La Segarra, for example, around 70 people have been vaccinated in their own homes.

However, transporting such medicine is not easy: the nature of certain vaccines, namely Pifzer, means that they have to be kept in extremely cold conditions in order to retain their efficacy. As a result, the vital doses have been transferred into small, transportable fridges and carried, often by foot, to the houses of the most dependent. 

While in most cases the preferable option is for vulnerable people to be brought by their caregivers to receive their vaccine in the local village or town, at times this is too great a challenge and other methods have had to be explored.

Moreover, whilst it would also be preferable to reach these isolated locations by vehicle, pre-prepared doses in syringes risk being damaged by the movement, meaning that they could be completely wasted on the way. 

Across the whole Lleida Health Region, over 79% of the population over 80 has now been vaccinated, and in the mountainous Pyrenees region, this figure stands at 77%. According to the Catalan Ministry of Health, those who have not been vaccinated in this age group are those who cannot be, or who have it turned it down.