Health Department plans to be able to administer half a million vaccines every week from May onwards

Large venues such as the Fira and Camp Nou will be set up when the expected doses arrive

3 min
Vergés in an archive image

BarcelonaHalf a million vaccinations every week from May. This is the target set by the Department of Health to accelerate the current rate of vaccination, which has enabled 607,000 people to be immunised since the end of December. However, to achieve this, the minister Alba Vergés has admitted that "everything will depend" on the number of available doses delivered by the pharmaceutical companies, because the reality is that they have accumulated fragrant failures to meet their delivery commitments. Despite the uncertainty of the calendar and the compliance of other actors, the ministry is confident that by the end of June, 30% of Catalans can be immunised and, three months later, at the end of the summer, group immunity can be increased to 70%.

The mass vaccination plan that the ministry has designed is subject to external variables that make it difficult for the department itself to explain how the schedule will be deployed for each age group. For the moment, it is estimated that at the earliest it will not be before "mid-May" before vaccinating those between 70 and 79 years of age. Around this time it is also expected that more vaccines will be available, with the reinforcement that will come from having doses of the new Janssen vaccine, which will arrive in Catalonia around "the second half of April", a fortnight later than initially planned, according to new calculations by the pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson. 

Facilities in place

If all goes well, this will be the moment when it will be possible to go from injecting 200,000 doses per week to 500,000, an increase that the Health Department plans to make with an expansion of the vaccination map in order to "streamline the circuit" and avoid overloading primary care, said the minister. In addition to the 430 outpatient clinics and annexes (libraries or exhibition halls, for example) that have already been set up for this campaign, there will be up to 46 intermediate spaces and six large facilities throughout Catalonia: Fira de Barcelona, Pista de Sabadell, Fira de Cornellà, Palau Firal de Girona, Pabellón Onze de Setembre de Lleida, a space to be specified in Tarragona and, in addition, Camp Nou could also be made available, if necessary, according to Vergés, who has reached an agreement with the president of FC Barcelona, Joan Laporta.

But before making this "leap", in the words of Vergés, the department has yet to finish vaccinating people over the age of 80 living at home and the population aged between 55 and 65. As for the elderly, 118,000 people have been vaccinated with a first dose, which represents 30% of the group, but the pace is expected to accelerate next month, when 120,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine will arrive in the week of 29 March and 195,000 doses on 5 April, so that the second doses can be administered to this group.

Starting tomorrow, the campaign will resume with AstraZeneca, after the temporary halt that was ordered to rule out the relationship with the thrombi detected in vaccinated people, which left 36,000 essential workers under 55 years of age without doses. The novelty is that with the change in the Ministry of Health's criteria, the target population has been extended to 240,000 people aged between 56 and 65, a group that worries the Ministry because in this third wave the average age of those admitted to the ICU is 63, and that is why Vergés had insisted on calling for the elimination of the age limit and for the protection of this group to be brought forward. At the press conference, Vergés and her secretary of Public Health, Josep Maria Argimon, insisted on several occasions on the "sticks in Spain's wheels" in the planning of the vaccination campaign for having resisted lifting the 55-year limit for receiving the AstraZeneca vaccine, and even complained that the age limit had not been eliminated.

No rejection

In any case, people in this age group have already begun to be contacted by SMS so that they can subsequently make an appointment through the website. According to the minister, no rejection or mistrust of a vaccine that has been in the spotlight because of possible harmful side effects that have finally been ruled out by researchers has been detected in the campaign's resumption.  

Along with the available vaccines and administration sites, the health personnel who inject each dose are indispensable. Health has assured that it has located and has available up to 10,000 professionals who have responded to appeals and who are mostly already working in public and private health care. As the vaccination is an extra, these professionals have to double their shifts, which is why they need "a certain amount of rest", Argimon pointed out, justifying the fact that only if necessary will vaccinations be carried out during the Easter holidays.

In fact, the government is determined to maintain the current restrictions for the Easter holidays. Thus, the Minister of the Presidency, Meritxell Budó, announced that the final decision will be taken before Friday, but has already warned that with "high probability" there will be no easing of measures, a decision that Vergés validates by calling for "responsibility".