By Alyssa McMurtry
OVIEDO, Spain (AA) - Spain's Health Minister Salvador Illa on Tuesday unveiled details of the country’s coronavirus vaccination plan, with an optimistic note that the entire Spanish population could be vaccinated within a year.
According to the information made available to the Spanish government, Illa expects the first vaccinations to begin in January.
The first people to receive the shots will be residents and workers in nursing homes.
They will be followed by the rest of Spain’s healthcare workers and disabled people who need intense levels of support but “are not institutionalized”, said Illa.
Those priority groups include around 2.5 million people, who would foreseeably be vaccinated before June.
Spain’s vaccine committee divided the population into 18 groups based on “the risk of serious illness and death; the risk of being exposed; the risk of socio-economic impact; and the risk of transmission”.
When asked, Illa refused to outline which groups will be prioritized after the first four.
Spain, as part of the EU’s vaccine strategy, has deals with six vaccine companies -- Moderna, Oxford AstraZeneca, Pfizer and BioNTech, Johnson & Johnson, Sanofi and GSK and CureVac. It is also in the process of closing an order with NovaVax.
The products of the first three companies are currently being revised by the European Medicines Agency and could be approved within weeks.
Illa said Spain is set to receive 140 million vaccine doses for 80 million people this year, even though the country’s population is only 47 million.
“We’ll have enough doses for vaccination of 100% of the population this year if development continues to go well,” Illa said.
He also explained that the excess doses will be sent to countries outside the European Union under principles of “solidarity”.
The vaccines will be given out for free at around 13,000 centers which are already equipped to vaccinate the public. Despite the president of Galicia saying last week that people could be fined for refusing to get vaccinated, Illa said the program will be voluntary and the same across the country.
Spain is simultaneously developing its logistics to be able to deliver the more complicated vaccines like that of Pfizer, which needs to be stored at minus 70 degrees Celsius.
A registration and follow-up strategy for vaccination is also being planned, as all three currently undergoing the approval process require two jabs to be effective.
Illa said Spain will also conduct its own studies on efficacy and launch communication campaigns for healthcare workers and the general public about the vaccine.
“This vaccine will be just as safe as any other vaccine we provide in Spain,” said Illa.