Spain postpones decision on second AstraZeneca dose by four more weeks

The Public Health Commission agrees to extend the range between doses to 16 weeks and wait for the study to combine it with Pfizer

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Vaccination with AstraZeneca this week at UB.

MadridSpain continues to force the calendars to decide what to do with the second doses of AstraZeneca after limiting its supply to those under 60. There are a total of two million people affected in Spain as a whole, 200,000 of them in Catalonia. They are members of groups considered as essential -educational staff, police, firefighters, prison officers, and so on- who began to receive the first dose in early February but the thrombosis cases' alert paralysed the second dose.

Although the European Medicines Agency (EMA) recommended a week ago to continue with the original guideline and administer the two doses of AstraZeneca, Spain has decided to be cautious and delay the decision deadlines as much as possible. The Ministry of Health and most of the autonomous communities have agreed on Friday, in the framework of thePublic Health Commission meeting, to wait four to six weeks to take a final decision. This was explained by the acting Minister of Health of the Community of Madrid, Enrique Ruiz-Escudero, who is against the decision, and confirmed shortly after by the Ministry of Health.

Specifically, the Public Health Commission has agreed to extend from 12 to 16 weeks the administration of the second dose to people under 60 because it believes it is necessary to take the decision that "guarantees the safety of the vaccination taking into account the best possible knowledge". In this way, Spain follows in the footsteps of Ireland, which, citing the "precautionary principle", has also opted to wait for more information.

A study among 600 people

The State will thus wait for the study being carried out by the Carlos III Health Institute (ISCIII) through five hospitals - the Vall d'Hebron and Hospital Clínic, in Catalonia; La Paz and Hospital Clínic San Carlos, in Madrid, and Hospital Cruces, in the Basque Country - to test the safety and efficacy of administering a second dose of Pfizer to those younger than 60 who received AstraZeneca. Catalonia is not so much against the decision to postpone the vaccination as against the fact that it is limited to a clinical trial with only 600 people, when it considers that there is sufficient scientific evidence to administer the second dose, as well as opting directly for the German and French model of administering the second dose of Pfizer.

Madrid is also against linking the postponement to the study of Carlos III and particularly criticises that there is no decision after exceeding the 12 weeks that the Oxford vaccine recommendation marks between both doses, although the ministry insists that it can be delayed more and that with a single dose it is already demonstrated that there is an effectiveness in immunization of up to 80%.