File photograph. / SUR

Spain retires the AstraZeneca vaccine for good, and sends the remaining doses to Latin America

Although the country hasn't yet reached 60 per cent of the population immunised, some 20 million doses of the British vaccine, that have already been paid for, will be sent to Latin American instead

MELCHOR SÁIZ-PARDO

Last week, Spain's Ministry of Health announced the signing of a three-way agreement between the Government, AstraZeneca and Covax (the programme for donating vaccines to third countries). The deal means that the Anglo-Swedish laboratory will begin to send, directly to Latin America, the more than 20 million doses that Spain, despite having paid for them, is not willing to use. This is despite the fact that Spain has not even reached 60 per cent of its population immunised yet.

The agreement was struck after the department, headed by Carolina Darias, made public that it was not going to continue distributing doses of AstraZeneca among the regions. First, though, it had verified that they had enough vaccines in their freezers to administrate the second jab to the people who still had to complete the guideline, especially those in their sixties, the age group to which, the formula had been reserved after its use had been banned below the age 60 years after rare blood clots had been detected in spring.

The Ministry of Health disregarded the advice of the European Medicines Agency, and stopped the vaccination of essential workers under 60 (police, firefighters, pharmacists and military personnel) who had a first dose of the AstraZeneca and then recommended, without much success, they completed their vaccination with a second dose of Pfizer.

The department has already announced that it will not sign any more contracts with AstraZeneca (or Janssen - the other adenovirus technology vaccine), and will end its troubled relationship with the British laboratory. Some 9.5 million doses of the formula were administered in Spain giving protection against the virus to slightly more than 4.4 million people, 9.3 per cent of the population.

The seventh Pharmacovigilance Report on Covid Vaccines of the Spanish Agency for Medicines and Health Products (Aemps) published this week has dedicated a substantial part of the dossier to analysing what happened with Vaxzevria, the commercial name of the Astra Zeneca formula.

Until 11 July, the closing date of the study, 8,482,164 doses of Vaxzevria were administered in Spain, corresponding to 5,062,425 people. Regarding the distribution by age groups, 83 per cent corresponded to people between 18 and 65 years old and 17 per cent to people over 65 years old.

During this period, 10,058 notifications of adverse events after a jab were registered in the Fedra database and the majority corresponded to women (74 per cent) and people between 18 and 65 years of age (96 per cent). Of all the notifications registered,some 2,252 were considered serious.

Ministry of Health studies concluded that with Oxford vaccine there is more than twice the possibility of serious reactions than with any other of the three authorised formulas in Spain. Fedra reveals that the possibility of suffering a serious problem after a jab with AstraZeneca is one in 3,766, a ratio that rises to one in 7,136 with Moderna; to one in 9,953 with Pfizer; to one in 10,441 with Janssen.

Without a doubt, the biggest fear of AstraZeneca was the 'very rare' cases of thrombosis (formation of blood clots in the blood vessels) with thrombocytopenia (low levels of platelets), known as Thrombocytopenia Thrombosis Syndrome (TTS).

The Ministry of Health explains that in the EU, until 27 June, 479 cases had been reported, of which one hundred had a fatal outcome. All this after more than 51 million doses of the vaccine were administered in Europe, which implies one thrombus every 100,000 jabs and one death in every half a million vaccinations, approximately.