By Alyssa McMurtry
OVIEDO, Spain (AA) – As many as 20 million people in Spain could be vaccinated against COVID-19 by May or June, the country’s prime minister said on Friday.
Pedro Sanchez’s remarks came on a day when Spain’s epidemiological situation showed further signs of improvement.
The Health Ministry reported 8,745 new infections on Friday – down by almost 1,400 from Thursday.
Spain has cut its infection rate by more than half over the past month, bringing it down to 231 infections per 100,000 people for the past two weeks from 528 on Dec. 4.
Active hospitalizations also continued to drop on Friday, while 214 more fatalities took Spain’s official COVID-19 death toll to 46,252.
Sanchez’s message about vaccination was also optimistic, saying the government estimates that most of Spain’s most vulnerable people – as much as 43% of the population – will be vaccinated before the summer.
Spain has placed orders for 140 million vaccine doses, enough for 80 million people, though the country’s population is only around 47 million.
Meanwhile, a monthly survey by Spain’s Center for Sociological Research (CIS) published on Friday found that 55% of respondents would rather wait a bit longer to get vaccinated, whereas 32% said they would want the jab as soon as it is approved.
Just over 8% of those surveyed said they would not want to get vaccinated at all.
As Spain’s infection rate continues to improve, all Spanish regions, except the Balearic and Canary Islands and Extremadura, closed their borders on Friday as the country heads into a long weekend.
Traffic jams were observed outside of Barcelona on Thursday night, just hours before the city also moved to limit all non-essential movement to prevent weekend getaways.
Health officials are aiming to bring down infections as much as possible before the Christmas holidays, when the country is set to allow people to visit friends and family and make exceptions for larger gatherings and later curfews.