The vaccination against COVID-19 of adolescents has reached such agility in Spain that this age group, that of 12 to 19 years, already exceeds those between 20 and 40 years with first doses. And that their period to be immunized, especially among those under 16 years, opened much later, during the month of August.
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A few days after the start of the school year, data from the Ministry of Health show that the speed at which minors have been vaccinated deserves a separate chapter within the immunization campaign against the coronavirus. Currently, 79.4% of these young people – that is, more than three million – have already received the first of the two injections, while this percentage drops to 76.3% and 76.1% if it is observed those between 20 and 29 years old and those between 30 and 39, respectively.
This surprise has occurred in all the autonomous communities equally except in Madrid. In some, such as Galicia or Asturias, adolescents exceed 90% coverage with the first dose, with more than ten points of difference in both cases with respect to the thirty-something age group.
Although the same has not yet happened with the complete regimen, which for now reaches 60.3% of young people between 12 and 19 years old – many of those who have a dose have not met the deadline to receive it – the experts consulted agree that that his response to the call for vaccination is being “exemplary”. At least initially. And in most cases an active search has not been necessary, since the regional health authorities have chosen to inject them in the same mass vaccination points as the others and that today are already being dismantled due to lack of demand.
What does this greater predisposition of adolescents respond to? As is usual in the epidemic, there are few certainties and several hypotheses to begin with. But the main one is that the horizon of the beginning of the school year has given it a decisive boost. To this, it should be added that minors are more traceable by health centers or that they weigh over everything what their parents decide, who in turn have ages at which there begins to be a greater risk of serious infections .
From back to the ‘school’ to the link with the ambulatory
“A safer and closer to normal return to school is an important incentive for vaccination,” says epidemiologist and pediatrician Quique Bassat, from the Barcelona Institute for Global Health, who recalls that school protocols for the 2021-2022 academic year establish that those vaccinated will not have to confine themselves, while the others will. “This may have had weight in the decision of many parents, who know perfectly how disruptive a quarantine is”, completes this expert.
This connects with another great decisive factor, which is the obvious fact that the decision to vaccinate minors almost always rests with their parents. Some families that, due to the age of their children, tend to be over 40 years old, a group with greater vaccination coverage (87% with the first dose and 85% with the complete schedule). “Minors are brought to us by their parents and in general they have not been asked whether or not they want to receive the injection,” explains Pepi Estany, a nurse from a Primary Care Center and a member of the Generalitat’s Vaccination Advisory Council.
Estany, who works in an outpatient clinic in Artesa de Segre, a town in Lleida with 4,000 inhabitants, also adds that minors are more easily located than older ones, because they still live with their parents, go to school and have not been left town. “Sometimes it is more difficult for those over 20 to locate them, they have obsolete telephones or they live in other places”, summarizes this nurse. Bassat, for his part, adds another idea: “I think that the adolescents have been given a lot of cane and have been partially blamed for the fifth wave, and that has caused that as a group they have reacted by showing that they take things in I laughed”.
In this sense, the fifth wave has also influenced the vaccination rate of each age group. In defense of the 20 to 30 age group, for example, this was the hardest hit by COVID-19 at the beginning of July, just when they were going to receive the first puncture, although the adolescents were not far behind. Between June 20 and the end of August, 4.7% of the population aged 10 to 19 years were infected and 5.7% of those aged 20 to 29. All of them can start receiving the first dose two months after the contagion (or a month in the case of some autonomies).
Vaccination in universities and not yet in institutes
The good vaccination data among minors have so far diluted the few voices that asked for vaccination points to be placed in secondary schools. For now, no community has launched them, although the Catalan Generalitat assured that it would consider it in the coming days, especially in those areas where vaccination coverage is very low. In other words, within the plan to reach the most lagging population groups.
The truth is that, despite the fact that the comparison with those in their 20s and 30s leaves them in a good place, today there are still 20% of adolescents without a first dose. And the curve of daily vaccinated at that age has also been flattening, experts recall.
With the end of the mass vaccination stage, experts agree that it makes sense to study the inclusion of secondary schools within the strategies of installing temporary or itinerant immunization points. “There are still minors under 18 that we have not been able to locate and, furthermore, vaccination at the institute adds value to the strength of the group. Those who have not been vaccinated think: ‘If this one gets vaccinated, me too,” reflects the Nurse Estany.
However, right now the health authorities are more concerned about the group that goes from 20 to 30, also from 30 to 40, than for minors, with which many autonomies have prioritized putting immunization points on campuses university students. Catalonia is carrying it out this week in almost all universities, without prior appointment and also open to people from outside the academic community. Among the communities that are promoting it are also Madrid, Cantabria or Castilla-La Mancha. In Navarra they have vaccinated half a thousand foreign students.