By Alyssa McMurtry
OVIEDO, Spain (AA) - Several Spanish officials complained Wednesday that they were running out of coronavirus vaccines, as the Health Ministry reported 40,285 additional infections.
Spain is immersed in the height of its third wave of infections and its vaccination program is going slower than expected.
Deputy head of Madrid’s regional government, Ignacio Aguado, said that his region will stop vaccinating new patients for the next couple of weeks. Instead, it will ensure that patients are receiving their second doses.
He told the media that at “the current pace” Spain will be far off its target of vaccinating 70% of the population by the end of summer and will instead reach general immunity in 2023.
Likewise, Catalan health official Josep Maria Argimon said that delays on the part of Pfizer and Moderna mean the region will soon run out of vaccines. As a consequence, Catalonia is being forced to delay the second dose for around 10,000 people.
Premier of Andalusia Juanma Moreno echoed complaints, saying “at this rhythm, fewer than 14% of our population will be vaccinated by summer.”
The vaccine shortages in Spain come as the European Union is in intense negotiations with pharmaceutical companies that have cut or delayed promised supply to Europe.
As of Tuesday, Spain administered 96% of all received vaccine doses, according to the Health Ministry.
The vaccine bottleneck comes as Spain is immersed in one of the worst moments of the pandemic. While new cases hover near record-highs, early signs indicate new infections have reached a high plateau.
Still, 24% of all the country’s hospital beds and 42% of intensive care units in Spain are currently occupied by COVID-19 patients.
Deaths are also increasing, with another 492 fatalities reported Wednesday.
Authorities are also worried about a surge in the variant first identified in the United Kingdom.
Catalonia’s Argimon said 8% of the sequences being sampled in Barcelona have the mutation that makes the virus more contagious and perhaps more lethal.
Catalonia and other regions have warned of community transmission of the new variant. Experts estimate that it will take longer than one month to become the dominant variant in Spain.