File image of Covid-19 vaccinations / E.P.

Fourth Covid jab will not be offered to the whole population, clarifies Spain's Ministry of Health

In a statement correcting a comment made by Health minister Carolina Darias in a TV interview on Thursday, it said the booster jab is only intended for the over-80s and people who are vulnerable

J. GUERRERO / Á. SOTO Madrid

The Ministry of Health has corrected the statement by the Minister, Carolina Darias, in a TV interview on Thursday when she said a fourth dose of Covid vaccine will be offered to the entire population this autumn. The Ministry said it is only being given to people over the age of 80 and residents of care homes.

The comment by Darias was immediately reported in other media, because it appeared to be a U-turn after public health authorities had said there was no need to vaccinate everybody a fourth time.

Spain's Health minister Carolina Darias. / EFE

In Spain, people who are vulnerable (such as transplant patients, cancer patients and those over 40 with Down’s Syndrome) have been eligible for their fourth jabs since the beginning of this year.

The Minister’s comment also raised eyebrows among public health experts, bearing in mind that on Wednesday she had presided over an Interterritorial Health Council meeting in Valencia and had said nothing about extending the fourth vaccine to the whole population.

Confusion

Amós García Rojas, president of the Spanish Vaccinology Association, said he thought there must have been some confusion when the Minister made her comment. “I’m sure she was referring to the fact that there will be vaccines available for everyone who needs one, not that everyone is going to have one,” he said. “I think there was some confusion or what she said was misinterpreted”.

Despite the media coverage, the Ministry did not issue any correction for four hours after the interview, and then it also said that the data of how the pandemic is evolving is being constantly monitored and the strategy is decided in accordance with that.

In Spain, 92.4% of people over 70 (6.3 million) have had three vaccines. At present the number of Covid cases is classified as low: the accumulated incidence in over-60s is 590 per 100,000 and hospital cases are “very stable”, Darias also said this week.