Spain, alongside other EU states, announced on Wednesday evening that it would now be administering the AstraZeneca vaccine against Covid-19 only to citizens aged over 60 after the European Medicines Agency (EMA) said that ‘unusual blood clots with low blood platelets should be listed as very rare side effects’ of the jab. The EMA, however, had not advised any age restrictions for the vaccine’s use.
Last week Germany and France limited the vaccine to elderly groups, and earlier on Wednesday the UK authorities recommended that the vaccine should not be given to adults under 30.
‘We will continue to administer the AstraZeneca vaccine, but from the age of 60,’ the Spanish Health Minister Carolina Darias told a press conference, as the country joined several other nations that have taken similar measures. It was later confirmed that Spain will only administer the vaccine to citizens aged between 60-69.
In its conclusions published yesterday, the EMA encouraged countries to continue using the AstraZeneca vaccine, reiterating that the ‘overall benefits of the vaccine in preventing Covid-19 outweigh the risks of side effects’.
It had also said that, ‘so far, most of the cases reported have occurred in women under 60 years of age and within two weeks of vaccination’. However, the EMA said it had not been able to pinpoint those at risk.
While waiting for the update from the EMA, the Spanish region of Castilla y León had already suspended AstraZeneca vaccines as a precaution.
On 18 March, the EMA had published conclusions stating that there is ‘clear scientific’ evidence the vaccine is ‘safe and effective’ and that its benefits outweigh its risks. Spain had then started to administer the AstraZeneca vaccine again on all age groups from Wednesday 24 March, following the EMA’s conclusions, after having paused the use of the vaccine during several days. Prior to that, Spain had also only been administering the AstraZeneca vaccine to citizens aged up to 55.
On-going questions regarding the rare but serious blood clots among a small number of individuals who have received the AstraZeneca jab have undermined confidence in the vaccine.
On Wednesday Health Minister Darias said that the government would now consider what to do with those citizens under 60 who have already received the first shot of the two jabs needed for AstraZeneca to be fully effective. As of Wednesday, 2.1 million had received a first shot of the vaccine, while only 97 had received the second shot. It was not clear how many of those more than 2 million people waiting for a second shot were under 60.
Darias said that they will study the possibility of giving them a second jab of another vaccine, or leaving them with the one shot that would provide some protection.
Latest figures (up to 7 April) show that Spain has received 11,909,475 doses of Covid-19 vaccines and that 9,357,847 jabs have been administered. 2,941,831 people have now received a second jab, representing 6.2% of the population. In a separate report, we publish the amount of vaccines received and administered for each region in Spain: Covid-19 Vaccinations in Spain
📺 @CarolinaDarias ➡️ La #VacunaCOVID19 💉 de AstraZeneca se administrará desde este jueves a personas con edades a partir de los 60 años— Ministerio de Sanidad (@sanidadgob) April 7, 2021
📌 La propuesta ha sido aprobada por amplia mayoría en el Consejo Interterritorial del SNS#YoMeVacuno pic.twitter.com/HweeYH8nRc