No need to quarantine for those having received both vaccine doses
Senior citizens in care homes will not be quarantined and will be able to receive family visits
Santa Coloma de GramenetPeople who have received two doses of the vaccine against covid-19 and, therefore, have fulfilled their vaccination schedule, will no longer be considered close contacts of positives in the event of an outbreak or someone close to them becoming infected. This is a substantial change in the Public Health protocol announced on Tuesday by the Secretary of Public Health, Josep Maria Argimon, and is "a qualitative leap" for care homes and schools.
From now on, vaccinated teachers will not have to quarantine if their class has to, and neither will the elderly living in nursing homes. This applies as long as vaccination periods have been met; that is, they have received both doses and seven days have passed, if it is the Pfizer vaccine, or fourteen if it is the Moderna or AstraZeneca vaccine
Quarantines are a basic epidemiological action and essential to block contagion but that has very serious emotional and psychological consequences for the elderly, most whom are very dependent. "This change will make life in homes more flexible and increase family visits. Users will be able to gradually return to normality, albeit with the protective measures," said the Secretary of Public Health
Health Department brings back PCRs for close contacts
This is not the only update of the Catalan protocol for action against covid-19: the Department of Health will also bring back PCRs for close contacts. Until now, due to the rise in infections, primary care mostly used antigen tests, which are less sensitive in asymptomatic cases than PCR but faster in obtaining results. According to Argimon, the two strategies will now be combined.
The decision comes at a time when the infection curve already reflects the effect of vaccinations, which are reducing cases, admissions and deaths in settings and groups that are receiving it. However, the indicators are also affected by the impact of the British variant, which is already predominant, causing 60% of cases in Catalonia as a whole. Argimon has acknowledged that the introduction of the British mutation of the virus "has come a little earlier than expected," since the authorities expected it to occur mid-March.
As for the other mutations detected, such as the Brazilian and South African, Argimon said that cases "can be counted on the fingers of one hand". In fact, the virus is receding in Catalonia: the contagion rate (Rt) is around 0.94 and cumulative incidence has fallen to 251 cases per 100,000 inhabitants
92% of care homes without cases
The vaccination of residents (86% have received the two doses) and workers (68%) of nursing homes in Catalonia has allowed 92% of the centres to be free of coronavirus for more than seven days. Only 24 residences, which represent 2.3% of the 1,041 that exist in Catalonia, are considered "red" centres, with active outbreaks, and 62 more (6% of the total) have infected residents, although the outbreaks are controlled
"We are tending towards zero incidence, which was what we wanted: to avoid outbreaks that have worried us for so long," said Argimon, who has specified that there are only 42 elderly people with covid in the country. "More than 15,000 are elderly dependents and, therefore, all of them will be vaccinated or about to be vaccinated," said the expert.
Hospitals are also noticing the effect of vaccines, since this week only 13 new cases have been detected. The Vall d'Hebron Hospital, for example, has not identified new cases amongst the workforce for seven days despite regular screenings. This can be attributed to 80% of health professionals having received the first dose of the vaccine and 60% having completed the vaccination schedule.
The Deputy Director General of Health Promotion, Carmen Cabezas, has highlighted the improvement in nursing homes and health centers thanks to the vaccination, and stressed that the incidence of the virus in these environments is much lower than in the community: there are fewer cases, fewer hospital admissions and fewer deaths. "Now we have to prioritise the vaccination of elderly people who do not live in residences, which we are already doing, but we are also preparing a more massive strategy in the event that we get more doses," he said.
Petition to the State allow AstraZeneca vaccine for under-65s
Cabezas has advanced that from the month of April Catalonia hopes to receive a larger volume of doses, which would expand the vaccination strategy. Currently only 6.95% of the population have received vaccines to be able to administer them in the first dose and 2.47% in the second dose.
So far, 658,508 vaccines have been administered, 89.65% of the doses received. This week is when more doses have arrived, about 172,000. In this sense, the Secretary of Public Health has returned to ask for greater certainty regarding the supply of vaccines to accelerate the vaccination of the whole population. But not only this: Catalonia wants to administer the vaccine AstraZeneca all under-65s, at least
The Government had repeatedly asked the State, albeit informally, to allow the vaccination of under-65s with AstraZeneca's vaccine, but this Tuesday Cabezas has sent a letter to the Spanish government to review its authorisation of use. In the text, the doctor urges the Minister Darias to address this issue in upcoming meetings of the Interterritorial Health Council and, thus, change the criteria as other European countries have already done, for example Italy.
"We are depriving people of the possibility of receiving a safe and effective vaccine that, in addition, could alleviate some logistical problems we suffer," he said. "It doesn't make sense to have a 30-year-old teacher vaccinated but not a 62-year-old teacher, who is more at risk," Argimon explained.
The age group that has registered the most cases is between ages 10 and 20. Between February 17 and 22, there was a small rise in cases in schools, a little after Carnival. However, GP Ariadna Mas, in charge of organising screenings in schools, has claimed that since February 23 the number of cases has fallen. "This is a significant reduction, as we were worried about the transmission of new variantes", she explained. Mas added that "beyond individual perceptions, data show that measures have worked and that schools are a safe environment".