Spanish PM under pressure to lay out next steps in tackling pandemic

Sánchez has stressed that Spain is on track to meet its target of 33 million, or 70% of the population, vaccinated by August. [EFE/Emilio Naranjo]

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez will this week detail further plans to manage the COVID-19 pandemic amid fierce criticism from the conservative opposition about the slow vaccination roll-out and controversy surrounding the AstraZeneca vaccine, EURACTIV’s partner EFE reports.

Sánchez is set to address parliament on Wednesday, a week after Spain’s health ministry moved to restrict AstraZeneca doses to those aged 60-69.

The move followed an announcement by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) that cases of rare blood clots were mostly found in people below 60. The overall risk-benefit of the vaccine remains positive, it stressed.

Spain has not yet made a decision on what will happen to those under 60 who have already received their first of the two AstraZeneca doses. France has already allowed mixing of COVID-19 vaccines in these cases.

Sánchez has stressed that Spain is on track to meet its target of 33 million, or 70% of the population, vaccinated by August, while blaming AstraZeneca for the delays to the EU’s vaccine roll-out. “It has not delivered on its promises,” he said.

State of alarm will not be extended

The Spanish prime minister will also have to respond to criticism from the conservative Popular Party (PP), centrist-liberal Ciudadanos (Citizens), and far-right Vox, about the decision not to extend the current pandemic state of alarm beyond 9 May, when it is due to end. 

Many Spanish regions have called the central government to consider an extension, as the state of alarm provides the legal basis to implement restrictions and lockdowns, amid a new wave of cases in the country.

As with many EU countries, Spain’s roll-out has so far been relatively slow, with just 2.85 million people now fully vaccinated and nine million having received their first dose.

Spain, which was hit hard in the early days of the pandemic, is due to receive 87 million doses of various COVID-19 vaccines between April and September this year.

Spain’s 14-day incidence rate swelled over Easter from 152 cases per 100,000 people to 163. The percentage of ICU patients being treated for COVID-19 also climbed slightly, currently standing at 19.6%.

Since the start of the pandemic, 75,783 people have died from COVID-19 in Spain.

[Edited by Paula Kenny, Daniel Eck and Josie Le Blond]

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