Summer has brought a notable slowdown in the rate of vaccinations against COVID-19 in Spain. Either because of holiday trips, or because now the most carefree need to be re-caught, the figures for weekly injections have fallen by 40% in August, and this has forced the autonomous communities to look for ways not to lose speed in the race to the group immunity. Many of them first chose to attend directly without an appointment, and now a few have also decided to advance the puncture to those who have recently suffered COVID-19.
Positive and no vaccine: mass infections among young people do not put group immunity at risk
In the last week, at least nine autonomous communities have announced that they have lowered this waiting margin for people to be vaccinated. Until now, according to the documents of the Ministry of Health, it was preferable to wait six months for all those who had passed the infection. But seven administrations have decided to reduce this minimum period to two months. This is the case of Catalonia, the Basque Country, Navarra, Castilla-La Mancha, the Valencian Community, the Canary Islands and Extremadura. Aragon and Madrid, meanwhile, are the only ones that have gone further and left it in a month.
In all cases they will be administered a single dose. Also those who had already received the first and were infected before the second. However, the change in the protocols does not affect those over 65 years of age, precisely because for them the situation will not change: from the beginning of the campaign, if they were infected, they were injected with the first dose just after passing the symptoms of the virus.
With this novelty in the vaccination strategy, in these communities, which represent approximately half of the Spanish population, all those who were infected between February and June can now go to their vaccination centers. Each administration already has the figures of how many new candidates they suppose. In Madrid, which announced the measure this Friday in a statement, they amount to about 120,000. In Euskadi, where for days they have been sending SMS to summon them, it is estimated that there would be about 60,000; in the Canary Islands, 34,000; in Aragon, 30,000; in Extremadura, about 7,000. In Catalonia, the Generalitat does not offer data.
The reason for this new change, which is also being discussed in other communities – such as Galicia – is purely strategic and logistical and has nothing to do with the evolution of the disease, according to the experts. If before it took six months to vaccinate those who had passed COVID-19, it was because there were no vaccines for everyone and those who did not have any type of immune response had to be prioritized. “At the beginning the doses were what they were and it was preferred to vaccinate those who did not have previous protection. Reducing the days of separation between vaccines allows to suddenly reach more people and advance in global coverage”, sums up Amós García, president of the Association Spanish of Vaccination.
At mass vaccination points and in health centers there are beginning to be free appointments – in the case of Navarra, it was recognized by the Institute of Public Health itself – and this not only prevents the delivery of doses, but can be a waste of public resources allocated to the campaign in August. Serums are not going to go bad, but no one wants to have congress fairs and stadiums full of nurses open without taking full advantage of their potential.
In parallel, another reason for accelerating the vaccination of the newly infected is to “better protect them” against the delta variant, points out José Antonio Forcada, president of the National Association of Nursing and Vaccines. Although this professional also recognizes that the decisions of the autonomies are marked above all by the need to “optimize” the doses and go “filling in” the vaccinations. “It is important to have this population protected, but they are not a very large group,” says Forcada.
With some nuances, all the health administrations that have opted for this change have defended that it is one more step to achieve group immunity more quickly. “It will not prevent or delay the fact that a person still without having caught the infection can be vaccinated tomorrow,” the Basque Deputy Minister of Health, José Luis Quintas, wanted to reassure. In the case of the Catalan Administration, they also argued that this way this group, very young especially from the fifth wave, could have the complete pattern just before returning to their daily activities: to the work environment or to the university and educational environment.