Increase in infections among young people, especially in Barcelona

While covid-19 cases are on the rise among 15-29 year olds, Health Dpt opens vaccination for 30-34 year olds

4 min
A health professional prepares a vaccine against covid -19

BarcelonaConcern, especially in Barcelona, about the rapid growth of coronavirus infections among young people. In the Catalan capital, in just one month, infections have doubled among people aged between 15 and 29. The most sudden increase, around 40%, has been in the last ten days: if on 13 June there were 167 positives per 100,000 inhabitants in this age group, now 239 are being detected. In the rest of the country this upturn in infections has also been noted - ten days ago there were 145 positives per 100,000 inhabitants and now there are 168 - but with less intensity than in the capital. The increase in social interaction due to the arrival of good weather, the recovery of mobility and nightlife and the general feeling that the pandemic is on the decline are some of the factors that have favoured the rapid spread of the virus among a population still on the fringes of the vaccination campaign (only 13% are immunised for serious health reasons) but impatient to make up for the time stolen by the virus. 

The Secretary of Public Health, Carmen Cabezas, attributes the rapid escalation of infections to the spread of the Delta variant, initially known as the Indian variant, which preys on the unvaccinated and those who have not completed the vaccination schedule. "Sequencing indicates that in Catalonia 30% of cases are of this variant [32% in Barcelona], which is up to 67% more transmissible than the British variant [the one that circulated more until now]", Cabezas said. 

Thirty per cent of the infections in Catalonia this week have taken place in the city of Barcelona, and one in six of those affected is under the age of 29. "These figures worry us because they are the population that we are not vaccinating, the youngest, and although these are ages in which the disease is less serious and generally is not accompanied by major repercussions or hospital admissions, it is very important that they maintain protective measures", warned the head of health.

Cabezas expects transmission data to continue to rise over the next few days. At this point, and according to the Department of Health, the 15-29 age group is the only one that is rising. Cabezas stated that the epidemiological situation is evolving "well", but admitted that the accelerator must be pressed to get closer "as quickly as possible" to the younger age groups. It is likely, therefore, that vaccination will soon begin for the different age groups that remain to be vaccinated: from 12 to 29 years of age.

Alert for the Delta variant

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) has warned on Wednesday that the Delta variant will be behind 90% of cases in Europe in August and that relaxing the measures in summer can lead to a "rapid and significant increase" of infections "in all age groups", especially among the unvaccinated or those who are not fully vaccinated.

In Catalonia there are three age groups at risk of suffering the consequences of an easing of restrictions at the height of the new variant: the youngest unvaccinated (from 12 to 29 years), those who have just started immunisation (from 30 to 39 years) and those who have had to postpone the second dose for many weeks for reasons of vaccine effectiveness despite being vulnerable to the virus (from 60 to 69 years). The first dose has only 33% protection against this mutation, but with the second dose protection increases to 80.8%.

The good news is that the incidence is minimal in people over 70 years of age, who are already fully immunised, and decreasing in the 50-59 age group, as more than half of the citizens in this age group are fully vaccinated. For people aged 40-49, the number of new infections remains stable at present.

Open vaccination for 30 to 34 year olds

Meanwhile, the vaccination campaign will continue to advance and from Monday those born between 1987 and 1991, who are between 30 and 34 years old, will also be able to start requesting an appointment to be vaccinated against covid on the Department of Health's website. In this case, they will only be able to receive the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. In six months, 6 million doses have been administered and, with this rate of inoculations, the Government maintains the initial forecasts and is confident that 70% of Catalans will be fully vaccinated by the beginning of September.

At the moment, 19.2% of people aged between 30 and 39 have already received at least the first dose of the vaccine, many of them because they belong to essential priority groups. The same is true for those aged 20-29 years - 13.2% are partially vaccinated - and minors with a high-risk disease who have started vaccination (1.6%). The immunisation of those in their forties has also picked up momentum just a fortnight after the call: 65.2% of the population aged between 45 and 49 and 48.2% of those aged between 40 and 44 have been vaccinated with the first dose. In the rest of the age groups, the partial immunisation rate is well above 70%. 

One of the groups prioritised in the vaccination strategy is people with high-risk diseases such as transplant recipients, cancer patients, the immunocompromised and people on dialysis. According to the director of the preventive medicine and epidemiology service at Vall d'Hebron Hospital, Magda Campins, vaccination coverage for these groups is very high.

Fewer vaccines in summer

The vaccination campaign will slow down from July onwards for purely logistical reasons: fewer doses will arrive, some 200,000 fewer, as Cabezas announced last week. In June, Spain and Catalonia received larger consignments of vaccine because the pharmaceutical company Pfizer brought deliveries forward and each week around 600,000 doses have arrived, most of them from the American producer. "They have arrived at the right time to be able to reinforce the campaign and reach more people", Cabezas explained.