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Vaccine delays due to ‘Pfizer logistics issue’ now resolved, says health minister

Latest: Coronavirus in Spain figures (11 Jan)

The pharmaceutical group Pfizer has had to postpone the delivery of new batches of its Coronavirus vaccine to eight European countries, including Spain, the Spanish health minister Salvador Illa said on Monday, just a day after many EU countries commenced their immunisation campaigns.

Pfizer informed Madrid on Sunday night of the delay in shipments of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to eight nations due to a ‘problem in the loading and shipment process’ at its plant in Belgium, the Spanish health ministry said in a statement. It did not specify which European nations other than Spain had been affected.

Pfizer informed the ministry that the problem ‘was already resolved’ but that the next delivery of vaccines, scheduled for Monday, would ‘be a few hours late’ and arrive in Spain on Tuesday, the statement said.

Asked about the delay during an interview with Radio Ser, Salvador Illa said it was due to a problem ‘linked to the control of the temperature’ of the shipments which was ‘apparently fixed’.

The vaccine must be stored at ultra-low temperatures of about -70 degrees Celsius (-112 Fahrenheit) before being shipped to distribution centres in specially designed cool boxes filled with dry ice.

An image of the first batch of vaccines that arrived in Spain on 26 December 2020. (Pool Moncloa / JM Cuadrado)

Once out of ultra-low temperature storage, the vaccine must be kept at 2 Celsius to 8 Celsius to remain effective for up to five days.

Spain is scheduled to received 350,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine per week over the next three months.

Most EU nations began their immunisation campaigns against the virus on Sunday with the Pfizer/BioNTech jab, beginning with the elderly and healthcare workers.

Araceli Rosario Hidalgo, a 96-year-old lady living in a residential care home in the city of Guadalajara in the region of Castilla-La Mancha, became the first person in Spain to be vaccinated against Covid-19 on Sunday. The occasion was televised by the Spanish national broadcaster RTVE.

Health minister Illa has said that 70% of Spain’s population will be vaccinated by the end of summer 2021, and that the country would have achieved ‘herd immunity’.

Personnel working on the distribution of the first batches of vaccines that arrived in Spain on 26 December 2020. (Pool Moncloa / JM Cuadrado)

Announcing Spain’s Vaccination Strategy at the end of November, it was also confirmed that the government has advance purchase agreements for Covid-19 vaccines with a total of five pharmaceutical companies: AstraZeneca/Oxford, Sanofi-GSK, Johnson & Johnson/Janssen and Curevac, in addition to Pfizer/BioNTech. Negotiations also continue with Moderna and Novavax.

The Spanish Health Ministry has released a list to summarise how it has divided the entire Spanish population into 15 groups in order to administer vaccinations.

ALSO READ: Spain’s Health Ministry divides the population into 15 groups for vaccination

You can also click here for further details (in English) of the key points of Spain’s Covid-19 Vaccination Strategy.

Click here for all previous reports on: Coronavirus in Spain

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