Former Catalan health minister testifies over delayed Covid-19 vaccine rollout for Spanish police

Alba Vergés denies any wrongdoing and says she followed Spanish government guidelines

Former Catalan health minister Alba Vergés before testifying in a Barcelona court on January 12
Former Catalan health minister Alba Vergés before testifying in a Barcelona court on January 12 / Pol Solà i Arnau Martínez
Catalan News

Catalan News | @catalannews | Barcelona

January 12, 2024 02:00 PM

January 12, 2024 07:26 PM

Former Catalan health minister Alba Vergés voluntarily testified on Friday at a Barcelona court investigating the delayed rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine to officers of the Spanish National Police and Guardia Civil in Catalonia. 

The court is investigating former high-ranking officials of the Catalan Ministry of Health for alleged discrimination against Spanish police officers in the early days of the Covid vaccination program.

Alba Vergés, now an Esquerra MP and deputy speaker in the Catalan parliament, defended her management of the Covid-19 vaccination campaign in early 2021, saying it was based on health criteria and followed the guidelines of the Spanish government.

"[The health department acted] according to healthcare criteria. Therefore, the Guardia Civil and National Police are questioning, offensively, these professional criteria," she said before testifying. 


Registry issues delayed Spanish police vaccination

Legal sources explained that the reason for the low vaccination rate among Spanish police officers was the miscommunication between the Spanish government delegation and the Catalan health department. 

In mid-March 2021, when essential workers received the vaccine, there were problems sharing information about the police officers' registry, making it impossible to schedule their vaccinations.

When the Catalan health department finally received the registry, Spanish National Police and Guardia Civil officers were scheduled to be vaccinated at the end of March. 

However, on March 22, the Spanish government decided to stop vaccinating all essential workers under the age of 60, which affected most Spanish police officers in Catalonia. 

As a result, there was a significant disparity in vaccination rates between Catalan police officers, who had received their vaccinations earlier, and Spanish police officers. 

The court said that by March 24, 77% of the Mossos d'Esquadra, 68.9% of the Local Police and 77.9% of the Guardia Urbana of Barcelona had been vaccinated, but only 3.6% of the National Police and 2.8% of the Guardia Civil in Catalonia.

ERC believes case is 'injust'

Esquerra Republicana has defended the former health minister's management of the vaccination strategy, and closed ranks with Vergés after the judge said that he wanted to investigate her.

In a statement, ERC insists that the police forces were vaccinated following the set vaccination criteria and pointed out "the difficulties of bureaucratic coordination" of the vaccination of these agents.

The party currently governing in Catalonia also blamed the instructions of the Spanish health ministry regarding the use of the Astrazeneca jab, which had "recurring criteria changes."

ERC believes that the case is "unjust" and considers it an example of  "ideological persecution" against pro-independence leaders.