'Significant' percentage of population may be vaccinated by May 2021: Spanish health minister

Some medical experts urge caution as anticipation over Pfizer vaccine grows 

Spanish health minister Salvador Illa, November 4, 2020 (by Borja Puig de la Bellacasa/Moncloa Pool)
Spanish health minister Salvador Illa, November 4, 2020 (by Borja Puig de la Bellacasa/Moncloa Pool) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

November 10, 2020 04:57 PM

The Spanish health minister, Salvador Illa, has said that "a significant percentage" of the Spanish population may be vaccinated against Covid-19 by May 2021, when the state of alarm is due to end.

Illa made the comments during an interview with Spanish broadcaster TVE, following the announcement from pharmaceutical giant Pfizer that the vaccine it is developing has so far proved 90% effective in global trials.

The minister said that in the coming week he hopes to sign "some more contracts" to purchase vaccines, including with Pfizer. He explained that Spain, which has a population of 47 million, could have around 20 million Pfizer vaccines that would allow 10 million people to be immunized, as two doses are required.

Illa also gave assurances the when the vaccine is viable, it will be available for free in Spain, with experts deciding which groups will be first in the queue to be inoculated, and added that he expects the first batch may arrive in early 2021, or even in late 2020 "if all goes very well."

In September, Illa said that by the end of the year Spain will have its first batch of three million Covid-19 vaccine doses from Oxford-AstraZeneca. 

Science minister Pedro Duque said on Tuesday that he believes the first vaccines will arrive in Spain in January and that negotiations with Pfizer are down to "the last details". He expects a contract to be signed "in a few days."

Word of caution

As excitement builds over an effective vaccine getting ever closer, some medical experts in Catalonia have urged caution, among them the head of Infectious Diseases at Germans Trias i Pujol Hospital in Badalona, just north of Barcelona.

In an interview on Radio 4, Bonaventura Clotet warned that the announcement from Pfizer, while welcome, formed part of their "marketing strategy". He pointed out that the study was not yet complete and that the full, detailed results remain to be seen.

Similarly, the coordinator of the Covid-19 unit at Barcelona's Hospital del Mar, Robert Güerri, told Catalunya Ràdio that the vaccine "has a very long way to go."