Society 17/02/2021

People aged 45 to 55 will receive the AstraZeneca vaccine after key workers and healthcare professionals

Catalonia already vaccinates groups of different priority "in parallel" to mitigate the delays of pharmaceuticals

4 min
An education worker receiving AstraZeneca's covid vaccine on Wednesday.
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Madrid / BarcelonaThe Ministry of Health has agreed this Wednesday in the commission of public health the new vaccination groups, which will be different depending on whether it is the AstraZeneca vaccine - which will only be administered to adults under 55 - or the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines. In any case, age factor will be the main factor from now on, since it is "the main risk factor" behind covid-19 complications and mortality, as pointed out by the ministry led by Carolina Darias, a criterion that the Catalan health authorities share and celebrate.

In the case of AstraZeneca, after health professionals who are not on the front line and other essential professionals, such as police and firefighters, who are already beginning to be vaccinated, the group to which the vaccine will be administered will be people between 45 and 55 years. This is the first time this group has been included in the vaccination plan. The age limitation of this vaccine developed by Oxford and AstraZeneca has forced a change in the Health Department's vaccination plans: first the decision was to vaccinate essential professionals and now the vaccine will begin to be used for the general population.

In parallel, and depending on the availability of doses, the population will continue to be immunised with other vaccines suitable for adults of any age. Firstly, people aged 80 years and over will be vaccinated, then the group aged 70 to 79 years, followed by people aged 60 to 69. People under 60 years of age who are at high risk of severe coronavirus disease will then receive the vaccine. It remains to be determined which diseases will be included so that a person is considered at risk of covid-19.

The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.

What is clear is that, at present, people aged 56 years and older can only receive vaccines that have messenger RNA technology, which so far are the ones developed by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna. The Spanish authorities consider that only these doses have been shown to have a high protective effect on the majority of the population, including older age groups, unlike AstraZeneca, whose efficacy is still being studied.

Addressing the delays of Moderna and AstraZeneca

Moderna is directly cancelling shipments for the next ten days and there are many elderly people living in homes and health professionals who have received a first dose of the Pfizer vaccine. This means Catalonia has very little room for manoeuvre to continue vaccinating the most vulnerable population. Therefore, taking into account that AstraZeneca shipments - albeit smaller than promised - arrive more frequently, Public Health has decided to continue vaccinating other priority groups in order to continue making progress while waiting for more vaccines to arrive.

Despite criticism from the Spanish Ministry of Health, which remarked that it was necessary to respect the decisions taken by the Inter-territorial Health Council, the Catalan Department of Health has continued to vaccinate groups of different priorities "in parallel" to expedite the campaign. "The best place to have the vaccines is people's arms, not fridges," said the Secretary of Public Health, Josep Maria Argimon. Today educational staff under 55 years have begun to receive the vaccine, joining health professionals who are not on the front line of covid, such as physiotherapists, pharmacists and clinical psychologists, and the security forces and civil protection officers. Organ transplant patients are also being vaccinated.

School staff queue for the vaccine

Before the end of the week, expected tomorrow, Thursday, the Health Department will also begin to inoculate the Pfizer vaccine to people with dependency and their caregivers (one maximum), both at home and in day centers. Those over 80 will have priority and will receive the Pfizer vaccine, while carers under 55 years of age will receive the AstraZeneca vaccine. Regular vaccination of population suffering risk factors between 45 and 55 years is planned for next week, as well as start the immunisation of workers in the funeral sector.

On the other hand, one of the most vulnerable groups, those over 80 who are still autonomous, will still have to wait a little to receive the vaccine. "And until we reach the over 70s we will have difficulty reaching the figures of 14,000 and 15,000 vaccinations per day, which is what we would like," explained the deputy director general of Health Promotion, Carmen Cabezas. Among other reasons, because of delays in deliveries of vaccines from pharmaceutical companies, which are "major stumbling blocks" for a smooth vaccination plan, according to Argimon. The Secretary of Public Health has confirmed that AstraZeneca will send a third fewer doses next week and that Moderna will not deliver any more until March

In absolute numbers, only 60,000 vaccines will arrive from AstraZeneca on Monday, when 90,000 were due. Moderna will deliver 32,000 doses of the 60,000 scheduled for next week, but it will do so ten days later. "We already see that we will have to strategically store Pfizer vaccines to ensure there are second doses for dependents and elderly people. There are too many delays and obstacles, it is not a one-off," lamented Argimon, visibly upset.

80% fewer infections among health workers

The good news is that vaccination is having a significant protective effect on the groups most exposed to the virus: health professionals. According to the Secretary of Public Health, Josep Maria Argimon, the administration of the two doses has managed to reduce infections by 80% in the last seven days among health professionals. The rate of new infections per 100,000 health professionals is 231 when they are not vaccinated and falls to 42 cases when they have received the two doses. Infections are also reduced among those who have received at least the first dose, which go from 231 to 149 infections per 100,000 inhabitants. On the other hand, unvaccinated professionals continue to be infected, according to a study involving more than 68,000 professionals in both primary care and hospitals.

The deputy director general of Health Promotion, Carmen Cabezas, said that more than 425,000 vaccines have been administered and that a total of 172,687 people have already received the two doses. In the case of residences, the first group that began to receive the vaccine, has celebrated that 88.9% of residents have already received the first dose and 80.5% have already been administered the second. In the case of professionals, 70.9% have received the first and 60.5% the second. As he pointed out, these figures are above the estimates and, therefore, it is hoped that soon they will be able to recover "a fuller life"

Vaccination coverage by groups
  • Priority groups (Pfizer and Moderna) 80% Care home residents (second dosis) 60% Front-line healthcare staff (second dosis)
  • Key workers under 55 (AstraZeneca) 77% Prison staff 53% Fire fighters 39% Mossos d’esquadra (Catalan police) 34% Guardia Urbana de Barcelona (Barcelona local police) 27% Civil protection staff 20% Local police (other than Barcelona)
  • Other healthcare workers under 55 (AstraZeneca) 74% Dieticians y nutritionists 70% Speech therapists 68% Podologists 53% Physiotherapists 40% Pharmacists and pharmacy staff 41% Occupational therapists 18% Clinical psychologists 9% Opticians and optometrists 6% Dentists, hygienists and auxiliary staff 6% Veterinarians