Misc 13/01/2021

Catalonia receives the first 5,800 Moderna vaccines, which will be sent only to hospitals

Salut plans to finish administering the first round of Pfizer doses in care homes this weekend

Gemma Garrido Granger
5 min
Una professional sanitària vacunant del covid.

Santa Coloma de GramenetThe first 5,800 doses of the Moderna vaccine will land in Catalonia this Wednesday between 2 and 3 p.m. and will be distributed exclusively among health professionals at four hospitals: the Amposta Regional Hospital (Montsià), Sant Joan de Déu (Baix Llobregat), Fundació Althaia in Manresa (Bages) and Hospital de Mataró (Maresme). Thus, these vaccines will not be used in the homes of elderly people, who will continue to be vaccinated with Pfizer doses, as confirmed this Wednesday by the Secretary of Public Health, Josep Maria Argimon, and the Deputy Director General of Promotion of Health, Carmen Cabezas. Knowing that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines will coexist but cannot be combined - the two doses must be received from the same manufacturer - Salud has finally decided to totally differentiate the spaces that receive the two typologies to avoid possible confusions.

Moderna's vaccines are administered in two doses, with a difference of 28 days between them, and can last up to 30 days when thawed. Although it arrives in vials of ten frozen doses - not deep-frozen like Pfizer's -, they cannot be moved once thawed because of their messenger RNA technology. For this reason, they must always go to centres that have freezers at -20ºC, in order to minimise movement of the vials. "This conditions the places where they can be used," admitted Cabezas, and Argimon stated that they are "easier to administer in hospitals than in primary care centres or residences" because they already have these adapted refrigerators.

The Health Department has assured that, in two weeks, 8,000 more doses of the Moderna vaccine will arrive. However, it is not yet known when they will arrive nor how the rest of the 98,000 expected Moderna vaccines will be distributed. "Planning is very hard", Argimon admitted. In fact, the secretary explained an anecdote that, in his opinion, shows how little room for manoeuvre there is in the vaccination campaign: the department found out that the first delivery of the Moderna vaccine would arrive this Wednesday from a carrier, who commented on it quite naturally. "We did not have the official confirmation from the [Spanish] Ministry of Health, with whom we had met, and we had only been told that it was likely to arrive," he said.

Second doses in the residences

Since December 27, the health department has administered the first dose of Pfizer's vaccine - the only one being administered at the moment - to 91,382 people, 15,195 of them in only one day, according to official data. With this rate of vaccination and considering that more than half of the residents in geriatric homes have already received the first dose, Argimon has estimated that by the weekend all elderly people who live in nursing homes with code "green" - those with no detected infection - or "yellow" - those with some cases but which have been sectorised - will have been partially immunised. "Now we are reviewing at a state level if we can begin to act on the contacts of positive cases in "red" nursing homes, who up until now have not received vaccines," said Cabezas.

By next week, 21 days will have passed since the first vaccines were administered. This means that the "second round" can begin. Next week the second doses will be administered to the users of the first centres that received it. As is logical, it will be done in the same order and, "if everything goes well, Ms Josefa Pérez from the Feixa Llarga residence in l'Hospitalet de Llobregat will be the first to receive it," Argimon said.

For the Pfizer vaccine to provide maximum protection, you must take both doses at least 21 days apart - 28 in the case of Moderna - and wait between one and two weeks after receiving the second. But the strategy will depend on the type of vaccine, the amount of doses and the rate at which they arrive," warned Argimon.

Dr Cabezas has highlighted the "good pace" of vaccination that has been achieved and the good acceptance of the vaccine not only among residents in nursing homes but also among health professionals. "Rejection among health professionals is less than 1%, but in the nursing homes it is happening mainly among the staff, in 7% of the cases," explained the doctor. She has also assured that the Health Department is addressing the most sceptical groups to explain how the vaccine works and, thus, to use information to bring them around.

"Continuity stock"

The Health Department has received 180,020 doses of Pfizer vaccine, 60,000 per week, and has so far distributed 136,340 throughout the country. "This is not our goal, but what we receive every week," said Argimon. Tomorrow, Thursday, 25,000 more doses will be distributed, leaving a "continuity stock"of 18,000 doses to be distributed on Monday, when the new batches of Pfizer vaccines arrive. This stock has a logical explanation: the vaccines cannot be distributed directly when they arrive; rather, it is necessary to make sure that none of the links in the cold chain have been interrupted on the way. Only when their condition has been checked are they delivered. In the meantime, however, vaccines must be kept in stock to sustain the campaign if needed.

Health authorities wanted to emphasise the speed with which the devices and the nursing teams have been assembled to ensure that all vaccines reach residences and health centres throughout the country in an equitable manner and with full guarantees. However, Argimon has admitted that this is not an easy plan to carry out and that the arrival of the vaccines does not in any way mean that the rate of vaccination can be increased overnight.

The secretary also recalled that the covid vaccination campaign is a logistical challenge, the most important ever experienced in a vaccination campaign, far bigger than the the flu. The flu vaccine is already prepared in unidoi format and the vials can be moved; however, in the case of covid vaccines, they have to be reconstituted with physiological serum before being injected. When the vials are prepared, they cannot be moved and must be administered where they have been opened.

Three health professionals sanctioned for "inviting" family members to be vaccinated

The Catalan Institute of Health (ICS) has preventively barred three workers at a care home for people with disabilities in the Terres de l'Ebre for "inviting" their relatives to receive a dose of the vaccine. An investigation has been opened. "I am very sorry to have to explain this," said Argimon, visibly upset, "but when the vaccination is deployed in a center the priority is to vaccinate those in the center". This is the first case of irregular vaccination of covid in Catalonia, but the second at state level: recently the government of Madrid sanctioned a care home in Valdemoro for vaccinating people who were not residents.

Argimon did not want to give details about the incident, such as how many people were invited and whether these relatives have received the vaccine, but he has assured that in the event that they have received the first dose irregularly, they will also receive the second within a minimum of 21 days. "I don't want to explain much more," he admitted. The Secretary of Public Health has insisted that this is "an isolated event that does not represent the professionals of the ICS", and has vindicated the work of the 26 nursing teams that travel to the residences, most of them doing overtime. "I will not allow other situations of this type to occur. These is a very serious and unforntunate incident, and similar cases will be sanctioned," said the also director of the ICS.

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