Josefa Pérez, the first Catalan person to receive the covid-19 vaccine

The government is counting on vaccinating elderly people and workers in care homes within two weeks

E. F.
4 min

BarcelonaJosefa Pérez, 89, is the first Catalan person to have received the covid-19 vaccine at the Feixa Llarga Residence in l'Hospitalet de Llobregat, the starting point for the vaccination in Catalonia this midday. Calm and determined, Josefa has monopolized the cameras and has received the applause of the professionals of her care home: "I don't have any doubts, I have said I wanted to be vaccinated for a long time now". Almost 100% of the residents in this centre will follow Josefa's example, because they have agreed to receive the first doses of a vaccine that will reach eight more care homes today, one for each health region in the whole country. In Spain, the vaccination has begun in Guadalajara where Araceli, 96 years old, has been the first person vaccinated in the morning.

Les vacunes de Pfizer ja són al Banc de Sang i Teixits

The vaccination of Josefa, a resident of Galician origin, has been the image of a "turning point" in the pandemic, a sign that marks the beginning of the end after a very hard year, according to the Catalan Minister of Health Alba Vergés. Idoia Crespo was the nurse in charge of administering the first doses of Pfizer to both Josefa and the director of the residence, Conxita Barbeta, who was the second to be vaccinated. "I feel very proud to represent the nursing profession on a day like this", said the health professional, who has vindicated the major task they have carried out over these months.

"We are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel", the vice president of the government, Pere Aragonès, said, who has placed the vaccination as a first step to recover the normality that was broken by the coronavirus. In spite of everything, he has warned that the next months will be hard, and that is why we cannot let down our guard. The pandemic, with more than 17,800 deaths in Catalonia, has caused "too much pain", and care homes have especially been affected, which is why it is even more justified that the campaign begins with its residents and workers.

Catalunya, preparada per començar la vacunació de la covid-19

A total of 104,000 people will receive their first dose of Pfizer vaccine over the next two weeks, Vergés said. It will take three more weeks to administer the second dose, and with both vaccines already in the body, it will take 7-10 days to acquire immunity. That's why precautions will still have to be taken during the following weeks.

The Government hopes to reach the 80% vaccination threshold in care homes and achieve "herd immunity" within the homes in about six weeks, according to Vergés, who has placed this objective as a "adamant" to protect one of the most vulnerable groups.

In the case of Feixa Llarga, the first home where the vaccine has arrived, only three of the 64 residents have declined to receive it. Argimon has specified that they have declined "for reasons that have to do with their personal circumstances", without going into details.

Els congeladors on es conserva la vacuna al Banc de Sang

The head of Public Health of the Government of Catalonia has encouraged health personnel to be vaccinated. They are a priority group in this first round of the campaign to defeat covid-19. Until March, 748,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine are expected to arrive, which must be used to vaccinate residents and professionals of care homes, health personnel and people with a high degree of dependency.

From here on, Argimon acknowledged, it will be necessary to see what other vaccines will be approved in the EU and in what quantity and frequency they will arrive in Catalonia in order to design the next phases of the vaccination strategy. On January 6 the European Medicines Agency (EME) will meet and will probably give the green light to the Moderna vaccine.

Today Government officials thanked health workers who have worked hard to ensure that the vaccine is administered. Aragonès stressed that it will reach everyone thanks to the public health system.

Vaccines for the whole territory

The expected Pfizer vaccine will be administered throughout the day to users of the Nostra Senyora de Ribera in la Pobla de Segur; Balàfia I in Lleida; la Mercè in Tarragona; Nazaret in Móra d'Ebre; Font de Capellans assisted living facility in Manresa; Mil·lenari in Ciutat Vella, Barcelona; Gent Gran in Sabadell, and Creu de Palau in Girona.

Today's vaccines are an advanced consignment of 1,595 doses that have arrived at the Blood and Tissue Bank and are distributed from there to all Catalonia, under the custody of the Mossos d'Esquadra, the Catalan police. From tomorrow on, and on a weekly basis, 60,000 vaccines will arrive, and so the campaign will begin.

Care homes' commitment

The business association of care homes (ACRA) is confident that the vaccine will be widely accepted amongst residents and workers: it estimates that 96% of the people living in homes in Catalonia and 80% of the staff will be vaccinated. The estimates are based on the forms that everyone has had to fill out to give consent to receive the vaccine during the next few weeks. If the percentage among staff is lower, it is partly due to contraindications with pregnancy and breastfeeding in a highly feminized sector, as explained by ACRA's president, Cinta Pascual.