Spain to vaccinate 70-79 year olds with J&J's one-dose COVID-19 shot

·2 min read
COVID-19 vaccinations in Madrid

MADRID (Reuters) -Spain will initially prioritise people between the ages of 70 and 79 for inoculation with Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine, which should start arriving this week, the health minister said on Monday.

Spain will take a first delivery of 300,000 doses of the single-shot vaccine on Wednesday morning, Carolina Darias told reporters at Gran Canaria airport after a visit to the Spanish Canary Islands.

J&J began delivering its vaccine to EU countries on Monday after some delays due to production issues, European Union officials and the company said.

Boosting immunity among vulnerable populations is becoming an ever-more pressing issue as a new wave of contagion accelerates.

Spain's infection rate as measured over the past 14 days rose to 199 cases per 100,000 people on Monday, up from 127.8, or a 56% increase, from mid-March, but well below January's peak of 900.

"The fact that we have more immunity means the rate of ascent (of new infections) is not as fast as in previous occasions," Health Emergency Chief Fernando Simon told a news conference.

Authorities reported 22,744 new infections since Friday, bringing Spain's pandemic total up to 3.37 million cases. The death toll rose by 197 to 76,525.

In the Madrid region, which has consistently opted for looser measures to contain the virus than the rest of Spain and kept bars and restaurants open since last summer, the rate reached 336 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.

Following a sluggish start to its vaccination campaign, Spain is betting on a surge of deliveries in the second quarter to meet its target of inoculating half the population by July.

So far, around 6.6% of the population has been fully vaccinated.

Between April and September the government expects 87 million vaccine doses, while deliveries in the second quarter are expected to be 3.5 times what the country received in January through March.

With most nursing home residents and front-line medical staff fully vaccinated, and 90% of people over 80 years old having received a first shot, the 70-79 age group is the next priority.

(Reporting by Nathan Allen; Editing by Andrei Khalip and Bill Berkrot)