The AstraZeneca vaccine will go to essential workers. At least in a first stage. Although the drug is approved in Europe for anyone over 18, Spain is being conservative. First, those over 80 were left out, then those over 55 and, in the new prioritization made this Tuesday by the Public Health Committee of the National Health System, also those under this age who have pathologies that make them more vulnerable to disease. covid, as they had been claiming both groups of patients and some medical societies.
The committee, made up of technicians from the Ministry of Health and the autonomous communities, has chosen to prioritize only essential activities, which include: security forces and bodies (national, regional and local police, and the Civil Guard); emergency personnel (such as firefighters or Civil Protection, in addition to prison officials); Armed forces; teachers, early childhood education staff, special educational needs, and primary and secondary teachers.
Although neither the ministry nor the committee have given explanations for their deliberation, the reasons are in the draft of the new vaccination strategy, to which EL PAÍS has had access: “Given the currently known characteristics of the AstraZeneca vaccine […] Its use is recommended in people between 18 and 55 years of age, except those with severe immunosuppression (including cancer undergoing chemotherapy), uncontrolled cardiovascular disease and severe liver, kidney, metabolic / endocrine or neurological disease. People with these pathologies and those over 56 years of age (born in 1965 or before) will be vaccinated later when appropriate by age group and / or risk condition with the most indicated vaccine based on the availability of vaccines and the new one. available evidence ”. The reason for this is that no subjects with these pathologies participated in the clinical trials of the vaccine.
However, experts such as Ildefonso Hernández, spokesperson for the Spanish Public Health Society, called for prioritization in diabetic or hypertensive people under 55 years of age, who are also vulnerable to the most serious forms of covid.
The decision is not irreversible. In future updates of the vaccination plan, it may be included, if the experts determine that there is more evidence, both for the elderly and vulnerable people. The Public Health commission already limited last week that the drug would be destined for people between 18 and 55 years old, but had not yet ruled on the specific groups. Given this inconcretion, after 11 days since the European Commission gave the green light to the vaccine, and with the doses reaching the communities, some, such as Catalonia, had already announced that they would begin to vaccinate these groups. Faced with this forced improvisation so as not to waste time without giving injections while the Ministry of Health decided, its owner, Carolina Darias, warned on Tuesday that the process will be the same throughout Spain and that the groups would be determined by the Public Health committee. Finally, they have been the same that Catalonia anticipated and those that had already been publicly requesting other communities, such as Murcia, Aragon or the Balearic Islands.
The Minister of Health, Carolina Darias, participates in the press conference after the meeting of the Council of Ministers, this Tuesday. On video, his statements.
The AstraZeneca remedy will also go to toilets that are not in the front line, as the ministry announced last week before the arrival of doses at the weekend. What he had not done was specify who these professionals were. At Tuesday’s meeting, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, personnel from pharmacy offices, legal medicine, home help services, centers for minors and day centers were limited, among others.
1.8 million doses of AstraZeneca that Spain expects to receive in February will be destined for all these groups, pending confirmation of the number for the coming months. This process will be carried out in parallel to phase 1, which is concluding between residences and health facilities, and is already beginning among large dependents in some communities, such as the Canary Islands or Navarra. Before these end, vaccination will also begin among those over 80 years of age. Each group overlaps with the previous one so that the process is fluid. When the elderly start will depend on each autonomous community. Galicia, for example, has already announced that it will do so from February 22.
The largest group of those included is that of teachers, some 760,000 between infant, primary and secondary, according to union calculations. They are more than security forces (about 240,000), military (about 120,000), prison officials (about 23,000) and firefighters (about 20,000) combined. Although it was taken for granted that the latter would be among the essential personnel who would receive the vaccine, it was not so clear what would happen to the teachers, since when the economy froze in the first state of alarm, they were not an essential activity: the classes face-to-face were canceled. Meanwhile, essential workers who were part of the basic activity in spring, such as those in the food industry, are left out for the moment.
No serious effects
The vaccination process continues smoothly. The Spanish Agency for Medicines and Health Products (AEMPS) has published on Tuesday the second evaluation of adverse effects in the covid vaccine and, until January 24, with 1.1 million injected doses, there had been none serious or out of schedule. The agency has received 1,555 notifications of adverse events. The most frequent are general disorders (fever, pain in the injection site), the central nervous system (headache, dizziness) and the digestive system (nausea, diarrhea).
According to the Tuesday Health report, 2.1 million doses of the 2.4 that have arrived have already been administered in Spain. More than 832,000 people have received two punctures: the complete guideline for immunization. All of them, from the Pfizer vaccine, the first to arrive and to which the vast majority of doses that have landed in Spain belong: 2.1 million, compared to 87,700 from Moderna and 196,800 from AstraZeneca.