Ministry of Health bows to pressure over the AstraZeneca 'second dose crisis'

Doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine. File photograph.
Doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine. File photograph. / EFE
  • The rebellion of many regions, including Andalucía, against the vaccine 'cocktail' plan for the under-60s has forced another change to the national vaccination plan

There has been another major change to Spain's national coronavirus vaccination plan after a rebellion from the regions.

Just 24 hours after the Public Health Commission approved the proposal to give the Pfizer vaccine to the almost two million essential workers under 60 who were banned from having a second dose of the AstraZeneca formula, due to the ‘very rare’ problems with blood clots, the Ministry of Health amended its policy again.

The department, after a full-blown rebellion by a large number of regions, against the vaccine 'cocktail' - decided that all those 'affected' by the 'second dose crisis' can decide their second jab is from AstraZeneca again, or if they prefer Pfizer.

An informed consent will suffice for those reluctant to take the potpourri, explained Health Minister Carolina Darias, who acknowledged that this new change had been a very complex decision.

Those between the ages of 60 and 69 who have received a first jab of AstraZeneca will still be vaccinated with the same brand again for their second dose.

The option of letting people under 60 freely choose the formula used for their second jab, after receiving their first AstraZeneca dose, came after regions claimed the Ministry was "forcing" the use of the Pfizer vaccine based on a trial of just over 600 volunteers, carried out in just two weeks and with results that supported the authority's belief that the mix of vaccines is not only totally safe, but also increases immunity. And all this, they said, was against the recommendations of the European Medicines Agency (EMA), and many medical groups that reject the 'cocktail'.

The most vocal regions - Madrid, Galicia, Castilla y Léon and Andalucía - even threatened to vaccinate the second dose crisis group with the AstraZeneca vaccine to anyone who requested it without consent from the national Ministry of Health.

Until now, the vaccination strategy - health officials admitted - had been based on denying any decision about the choice of vaccine to the public. However, given the magnitude of protests from the regions the department decided to change its own rules on the fly.