Society 17/09/2021

Doses go to waste in fridges due to delayed vaccination pace

Health Dpt starts administering booster shots to nursing home residents

2 min
Josefa Perez applauding the sanitary ones after receiving the first dose of reinforcement, to the residence La Feixa Larga de la Hospitalet

L'Hospitalet de LlobregatIn the nine months since the vaccination campaign against covid started, it has gone from not having enough doses to go round to not having enough people willing to get vaccinated to use up the doses it has. The department of Health keeps a stock of doses in refrigerators -without having made explicit the exact number- which have already expired or are about to expire, while the pace of vaccination has stagnated and the end of the summer holidays has not led to the expected upturn in uptake.

In mid-August, the department predicted that the fall in the number of doses administered was due to the fact that many people had postponed their appointment in order to take advantage of the holidays and that September would see an increase in vaccination. With these forecasts, it withdrew the vials it was confident that it would need from the freezers but, as the Secretary of Public Health, Carmen Cabezas, admitted on Friday, it "has not been so" yet an undetermined number of doses have thawed and need to be administered soon. In fact, in the two weeks of September, fewer vaccines have been administered daily than during the height of the heat wave, and this has forced the department to change its strategy and begin a more active search for those who have not yet been vaccinated.

Cabezas is confident that the doses that are "about to expire" can be administered immediately in the campaign launched among the 40,000 residents of nursing homes, which from today will begin to receive a third, booster dose. However, the Department will also keep expired vials in stock, in case the European Medicines Agency (EMA) updates its guidelines on vaccines: if it establishes the drug may still be suitable, sage and efficient after 30 days, the Department could use them. "We will leave them in the refrigerators because in these months we have learned that the guidelines change," Cabezas said, referring to the fact that at first it was limited to a period of five days and, after scientific certification, it was increased to the current thirty.

The two-dose vaccines, especially Pfizer's and to a lesser extent Moderna's, require storage at extremely cold temperatures (-60ºC or -90ºC) in special freezers. They arrive weekly at health centres responsible for administering them throughout the country in accordance with forecasts and, once in refrigerators, they need to be used within a month. Forecasts have not been met and leftover doses have to be put back in refrigerators.

Pioneer Josefa Pérez

The drop in the pace of vaccination coincides with the beginning of the administration of the third dose which, symbolically, has started at Feixa Llarga nursing home in Hospitalet, where the vaccination campaign started on December 27. And also symbolically Josefa Perez, the first Catalan to receive the vaccine against covid, was the first to receive a booster dose. Surrounded by photographers and television cameras, she encouraged everyone to trust in vaccination.

At the same act, Cabezas and the Minister for Social Rights, Violant Cervera, remarked that the high vaccine coverage of the population over 12 has managed to "mitigate the effects of the fifth wave", which despite the spike in infections has had the lowest mortality.

The booster dose in nursing homes will be put in the coming days and the Health Department does not rule out reinforcing teams on weekends, while noting that almost 4,000 cancer patients or transplant patients have already received the third jab, while the next group will be the elderly who live at home, starting with the over-80s.