Spain will begin a vaccination campaign for children aged between 5 and 11 after the Pfizer vaccine for this section of the population was approved by the European Medicines Agency and Spain’s Vaccination Committee (La Ponencia de Vacunas), the group of experts that sets the national vaccination strategy.
The campaign will begin on December 15th. The Health Ministry is expecting to receive 3.2 million vaccines between now and January, which would be enough to give a first dose to all children in this age group (3.3 million).
They will be given one third of the dose that older people receive, and they will get the second dose the vaccine eight weeks later.
It will be up to regional governments to decide whether to roll out the vaccination campaign in schools or not.
So far, only a small handful of countries have given the nod for vaccines in younger children, including the United States, Mexico and Canada.
The 5 to 11 age group was the only part of the population that had still not been given access to the vaccine. It’s also the age group that has reported the highest infection rate (412 cases per 100,000 inhabitants), almost double the average in Spain (248 per 100,000).
In regions such as the Basque Country and Navarre the infection rate in 6 to 12 year olds is above 1,000 per 100,000 children.
The second age group with the most infections are adults between the ages of 30 and 50, which corresponds to the age of parents with young children.
While the fifth wave spread mostly with young people who still hadn’t had a dose of the vaccine, the sixth wave has been spreading in children. It is hoped the vaccine will help to slow infections, though it’s still unclear what will happen with the Omicron variant, which is apparently more transmissible.
Spain’s 17 regional governments had been waiting to hear the decision by the Public Health Commission, which in turn had been waiting for recommendations from the country’s Vaccination Committee.
There had been disparaging opinions among health experts and politicians. During its first meeting on the matter following the EMA’s announcement, the Vaccination Committee concluded that in the current epidemiological context it was not necessary to immediately vaccinate children aged 5 to 11 given the high rate of vaccinated adults.
Andalucía’s Health Minister Jesús Aguirre reiterated his willingness to start vaccinating children as soon as possible “in schools, as far as possible, or in health centres”.
“I’d rather not have to wait for children to return to the classrooms after Christmas for them to get their first dose,” Galician Regional President Alberto Núñez Feijóo argued.
Catalan health authorities have also stated they plan to follow “the established plans” to vaccinate minors, “as has been done with the rest of the vaccines”.