Hundreds of thousands of essential workers vaccinated with AstraZeneca are waiting to find out what will happen with the second dose. The Ministry of Health has announced this Wednesday to the autonomous communities that it is finalizing studies with the Carlos III Health Institute, the Spanish Agency for Medicines and Health Products and scientific societies to give an answer “in the coming days”, as announced Minister Carolina Darias after the meeting of the Interterritorial Council of the National Health System (CISNS).
Vaccination with this drug began on February 10 and the second dose should arrive 12 weeks later, that is, it should start in the first week of May. Before that date, Health must determine what to do, a necessary decision after changing its criteria on the use of the drug when detecting very infrequent thromboses after its application. Then, the CISNS voted overwhelmingly to apply it to people between 60 and 69 years old, which left those vaccinated under this age in uncertainty.
For them there are three possibilities: to receive a second dose of another vaccine, as countries like Germany have decided; do not inject a second dose, as the protective effect of the first is known to be high, or put a second dose of AstraZeneca.
Several autonomous communities, such as Andalusia or Madrid, have asked the ministry to eliminate the age limits that were established for this vaccine and allow people under 60 years of age to be immunized with it if they voluntarily request it. Darias has indicated that he will consider the proposal, but has added that the majority of the CISNS has already decided to limit these ages, in which, in his words, “the benefits of the vaccine are maximized.” “We will consult with the Vaccine Conference [el comité de expertos que asesora al Gobierno] to make the most appropriate decision ”, he said.
Europe is awaiting a resolution from the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to limit the risks of venous sinus thrombosis by age. It is a very infrequent side effect, but it has occurred mainly in women under 60 years of age.
The Ministry of Health is also waiting for the EMA to issue a recommendation next week on what to do with Janssen’s vaccine, which was scheduled to start this week, but which has been halted by the company, after recommending the US health authorities that it be stop the campaign to investigate side effects very similar to those detected after the application of AstraZeneca doses.
Spain has received this Wednesday the first delivery of doses that correspond to it. There will be a total of 300,000 in April of the 5.5 million that are planned this quarter. Darias has indicated that the communities are prepared to inject them as soon as the EMA gives the green light. He also recalled that Spain will receive between four and five million doses that were not planned from Pfizer between now and June, since the delivery scheduled for the fourth has been advanced to the second quarter.
The objective of the ministry is to complete in the coming weeks the complete immunization of those over 80 with this vaccine – mainly – and with Moderna and also to advance in the group of septuagenarians. A quarter of those between the ages of 70 and 79 have already received at least one dose.