Doctors and regional health officials are urging Spanish health authorities to change their policy on the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, which is currently only approved for people under 55 years old without serious health conditions.
In an op-ed in the La Vanguardia newspaper, two of Catalonia’s top government health officials threatened to take matters into their own hands if Spain’s medical agency does not change its tune.
“This situation has greatly compromised our vaccination strategy,” wrote health officials Alba Verges and Josep Maria Argimon. “We have teachers and police officers over 55 years old who still don’t have a chance to get a vaccine, while their younger colleagues already do.”
On Wednesday, Portugal became the latest European nation to approve the UK vaccine in people over 65, following other countries like France, Italy, Greece and Germany.
Spain’s Organization of Medical Societies also urged the government to lift the age limit.
Spain has administered just 43% of the 1.7 million vaccine doses it has received from AstraZeneca. Yet it has administered more than half of all Moderna doses and nearly 90% of all Pfizer jabs, which are being reserved for the elderly.
When Spain’s medical agency approved the AstraZeneca vaccine on Feb. 5, it stated that there was not enough data to prove its efficacy in people older than 55 but that the decision would be reviewed.
In total, Spain has administered nearly 5 million vaccine doses, with 1.4 million people having received both jabs out of the country’s population of 47 million.
The vaccine has helped drastically reduce the contagion in nursing homes, but Spain is also managing to keep new infections under control across the population.
Another 234 people have died of COVID-19, bringing the country’s death toll close to 72,000.
Also Wednesday, Spain’s regional governments voted to keep their borders closed to inter-regional travel during the weeks surrounding Easter, with the exception of the county’s two island regions. The vote will be passed into law, but the government of Madrid is threatening to disobey.
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