A health worker receives a dose of a Covid vaccine. / EFE

Spain gives green light to coronavirus booster jabs for the over-50s

The national Ministry of Health does not foresee new coronavirus restrictions before Christmas but reminds that the mask is mandatory outdoors if a safe social distance cannot be maintained

ANDER AZPIROZ / ÁLVARO SOTO

In the end, it will not be all those over 40, but only those over 50 years of age, who will be able to receive a third booster dose of a Covid-19 vaccine in the coming weeks in Spain.

The latest coronavirus vaccination campaign decision was made during a meeting of the Interterritorial Council between the national Ministry of Health and the regions, on Wednesday (15 December).

The incorporation of another age group will mean that seven million people between 50 and 60 years old will have access to this additional jab in Spain.

The decision was made in an effort to alleviate the decline in the efficacy of vaccines over time and also to cope with the arrival of the Omicron strain, which threatens to become the dominant variant in 2022.

Until now, the third dose was only available in Spain to those over 60 years of age and although the draft proposals prior to Wednesday’s meeting raised the possibility of lowering the age of the additional jabs to 40 years, the Interterritorial Council, chose to set the limit to 50, for now.

Decrease in vaccine efficacy

The age group between 50 and 60 has now reached a period of six months since receiving the second dose and this is the time frame in which most studies consider that there is a decrease in vaccine efficacy.

Therefore, those between 40 and 49 years old will have to wait until January or February 2022 to get a third injection, although the European Union asked three weeks ago that this group, and all those over 18 years old, receive the extra dose as soon as possible.

Since mid-September, the Ministry of Health has incorporated different groups in this booster dose campaign. First there were the residents in residential homes, patients undergoing very high-risk immunosuppressive treatments and people over 40 with Down's syndrome. At the start of October those over 70 years old joined, and in November it was the turn of the over-60s.

Christmas

Spain’s Health Minister Carolina Darias has urged those older than 50 years to receive the third dose before Christmas. "We must accelerate the vaccinations as much as possible to continue to protect ourselves," said the minister. Four out of ten over the age of 60 in Spain have not yet have the booster dose.

The country is clinging to vaccination and non-pharmacological measures to stop the sixth wave of Covid-19 and the spread of the Omicron variant and will not establish, for now, any more coronavirus restrictions. On Wednesday the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) warned that vaccination alone "will not be enough." The European body called for more measures, such as restoring the use of masks or mandatory teleworking.

“Culture of care”

However, Darias argued that the situation in Spain is different from that of other European countries due to the high percentage of people vaccinated and limited herself to appealing to the “culture of care”, a term that refers to the measures such as wearing masks in indoors, "and outdoors when a safe social distance cannot be kept," added the minister.