Spanish doctors disappointed by slow rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations

Spanish doctors and health experts expressed frustration on Monday at the slow start to the country's campaign to inoculate people against COVID-19, with only a few tens of thousands vaccinated since the EU approved a vaccine two weeks ago. The vaccine developed by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech cleared European Union regulatory hurdles on Dec. 21 and vaccinations began on Dec. 27, but the process has been slow and cumbersome, prompting criticism in several member states including Germany and France.

Reuters | Madrid | Updated: 04-01-2021 22:42 IST | Created: 04-01-2021 22:28 IST
Spanish doctors disappointed by slow rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations
Representative image Image Credit: ANI

Spanish doctors and health experts expressed frustration on Monday at the slow start to the country's campaign to inoculate people against COVID-19, with only a few tens of thousands vaccinated since the EU approved a vaccine two weeks ago.

The vaccine developed by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech cleared European Union regulatory hurdles on Dec. 21 and vaccinations began on Dec. 27, but the process has been slow and cumbersome, prompting criticism in several member states including Germany and France. In Spain, the vaccination campaign has been partially interrupted by a long new year weekend, with many health sector workers still on holiday and some nursing home residents away visiting relatives. Some regions also complained of delays in receiving the vaccines last week.

"It has been quite disappointing and worrying. It was the perfect opportunity to give a boost to the fight against the virus and to set an example," Quique Bassat, an epidemiologist and researcher at the Barcelona Institute for Global Heath, told Reuters. Echoing such frustration, French officials urged a faster rate of vaccinations on Monday, while Germany's health minister has come under fire over a shortage of vaccines there and the slow inoculation campaign.

With health a regional competence in Spain, there is as yet no national data available on the rollout, and many regions have not published their own data. Spain's Health Ministry declined to comment and referred to a news conference due later on Monday.

REGIONAL VARIATIONS However, a compilation of the available data in some of Spain's most populous areas shows the number of shots administered during the week was much lower than the 350,000 doses shipped, with big differences between regions.

Madrid had only vaccinated over 3,000 people as of Saturday from the 48,000 doses it received, while in Catalonia, where 60,000 vaccines are sent every week, only 8,293 people have been vaccinated so far. The north-western region of Galicia had vaccinated 9,500 people as of Sunday, about half of the 18,000 vaccines the region is due to receive each week. In the Canary Islands, 4,593 people had been inoculated by Saturday, 30% of people targeted in the first phase, using a third of their weekly doses.

"Some regions have performed reasonably well ... others have been slower. There is a gap and it causes us a certain degree of frustration," doctor Amos Garcia Rojas, head of the Spanish Association of Vaccinology, told Reuters. Madrid regional health official Enrique Ruiz Escudero said they intend to accelerate to administering 24,000 shots a week, while the rest of their weekly stock would be used as a second dose.

Catalan regional authorities, which plan to give shots to 748,000 of its 7.5 million inhabitants within 12 weeks, have pledged to give inoculations every day of the week to accelerate the process. "We are confident we can achieve this," Josep Maria Argimon, Catalonia's regional head of public health, told a news conference.

With holiday season not over in Spain until after Epiphany day on Wednesday, some experts remained wary. "It is incomprehensible that there are not enough staff and resources to continue to vaccinate every day. I think this is a big scandal," Manuel Perez-Alonso, Professor of Genetics at the University of Valencia said on Twitter.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)


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