The Spanish Ministry of Health and the country’s regional governments on Tuesday approved the use of the Janssen Covid-19 single-dose vaccine in people under the age of 60. The decision was taken at a meeting of the Public Health Commission, where officials also decided to focus the current vaccination campaign on “highly vulnerable people, such as people with major disabilities. and accessibility issues, people with autism or severe mental illness, ”According to a statement from the ministry.
The first group, people aged 50 to 59, number 7.03 million people in Spain, according to reports from the Ministry of Health. About 17% (1.2 million people) have already started their vaccination process as they belong to other target groups that have been designated as priority. Of these, 459,000 have benefited from the total protection offered by vaccines, or two doses, according to the latest data from the ministry.
Healthcare workers and caregivers in this age group represent some of those citizens who have already been vaccinated, in this case using Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, which use new messenger RNA technology to provide protection. against Covid-19.
Critical workers such as teachers, police officers, soldiers and prison guards, meanwhile, received the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, although this process encountered a number of bumps in the road, after the detection of ‘a small number of rare blood cases. drug-associated clots.
The Health Ministry has chosen to extend the time between the first shot of AstraZeneca given to this group from 12 weeks to 16 weeks, while the Carlos III Institute in Madrid is conducting research to determine whether it will be safer to give this segment of the population another dose of AstraZeneca, or an injection of the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine in order to give them full protection against Covid-19.
Spain has so far received 272,400 doses of the Janssen vaccine, of which 71% have been administered
Meanwhile, most parts of Spain have already chosen to start vaccinating the 50-59 age group using the Pfizer vaccine, in order to advance the campaign among younger people.
The second target group for the Janssen vaccine is made up of people over 18 who are in a vulnerable situation or those for whom it would be difficult to get vaccinated. “These are patients who can be difficult to locate because, for example, they do not have a fixed abode,” explained health care sources in one region. “In these cases, the fact that this vaccine is a single dose makes it easier to complete the vaccination process in one go.”
Spain has so far received 272,400 doses of the Janssen vaccine, of which 71% have been administered. So far these vials have gone to the 70-79 group. Before June 30, five million more doses are expected to arrive, which will allow vaccination of a large part of the 50-59 group. In addition, until September 30, the company will give the Spanish government an additional 12 million doses, according to agreements reached by the European Commission and pharmaceutical companies that supply vaccines to countries in the European Union.
With only 49 days left before Janssen is due to complete its first major round of deliveries, neither the Department of Health nor the pharmaceutical company have responded to questions from this newspaper regarding agreed dates or quantities for delivery. in the coming weeks, due to confidentiality clauses signed with the sector.
The Janssen vaccine uses a viral vector to produce the spike proteins of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which activates the body’s immune system. The process is the same as that used by the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. The European Medicines Agency has forced manufacturers to add a warning to the leaflets of both medicines indicating the risk of very rare cases of blood clots associated with their use, although the incidence is lower with Janssen injections than with Janssen injections. AstraZeneca. In either case, the risk is considered extremely low – one severe case per million doses – and the benefits of vaccination against Covid-19 far outweigh the risks.
The Janssen vaccine has so far been shown to be effective against the main variants of the coronavirus that circulate: the British, South African and Brazilian strains. Its published efficiency is currently 67%. While this percentage is lower than that of other vaccines – for Pfizer, for example, the rate is 95% – experts insist that there is no point in comparing these numbers, given that each one is the result. different clinical trials.
The Janssen tests, for example, were carried out when variants like the one from South Africa were already circulating. This strain has been shown to reduce the effectiveness of vaccines in some cases, leading to symptoms of Covid-19 – although much milder than those seen in people who have not been immunized.
13% with full protection
According to the latest report from the Spanish Ministry of Health, a total of 23,107,595 doses of Covid-19 vaccines have been delivered to central authorities. Of these, 20,162,661 were administered (87.3%). The number of people receiving a dose of the vaccine is 14,028,954, or 29.6% of the population. A total of 6,327,447 people benefit from the full protection offered by the vaccines (ie either the two doses required for the Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca vaccines, or the single dose of Janssen). This represents 13.3% of the population.
After a slow start in the first quarter of the year, the vaccination campaign gained momentum in Spain. Earlier this week, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez predicted that group immunity in the country thanks to the vaccination campaign was in less than 100 days. The government aims to have 70% of the population vaccinated by the end of the summer, but believes it may be able to exceed that target provided there are no bumps in the road like supply problems. Spain also reached its first goal of fully immunizing five million people in early May.
On Tuesday evening, the central health ministry reported 4,941 new cases of coronavirus detected and added 205 victims to the overall death toll. In total, there have been 3,586,333 confirmed infections since the start of last year’s health crisis in March, while 79,100 people have died after testing positive for Covid-19. The 14-day cumulative number of coronavirus cases per 100,000 population continues to decline, dropping eight points on Tuesday to 180.69, according to the health ministry report. That key data point fell 10 points on Monday, a trend that has been attributed by experts to the ongoing vaccination campaign.
The cumulative incidence remains dangerously high in some Spanish regions, however, reaching 279.83 in Aragon, 291.73 in Madrid, 261.19 in Navarre and 387.75 in the Basque Country.
English version by Simon Hunter.