‘COVID-19 passport’ could widen social gap between rich and poor, expert warns

According to García, there is growing concern that a fourth wave could break right after Easter if mobility restrictions or nightly curfews are relaxed. [EFE/Quique Curbelo]

The president of the Spanish Association of Vaccinology (AEV), Amos Garcia, firmly opposes a European “COVID-19 passport” that would grant travel privileges to those vaccinated because it could widen the “social gap” between rich and poor countries, not only in Europe but also worldwide.

In an interview with EURACTIV’s partner EFE published on Sunday, García expressed his satisfaction about the accelerated pace of the vaccination process in Spain but warned that the situation is far from being controlled.

“We still have to pull back from the precipice,” he warned.

According to the latest figures reported by the country’s health ministry, the infection rate is decreasing. The 14-day cumulative number of infections per 100,000 inhabitants has now fallen to 206, far from the “extreme risk” level of 250 cases.

In a move to mitigate the damage to the already battered Spanish economy, Catalonia, Valencia, and Madrid have announced on Friday (26 February), a relaxation of some restrictions. However, the main ones will remain in place to prevent a fourth wave of infections, just days ahead of Easter.

When it comes to vaccinations, Spain reported more inoculations (3.6 million) than the total amount of COVID-19 infections (3.2 million) as of Friday. Still, a few logistical issues remain, particularly with regard to the AstraZeneca vaccines, of which more have been received than administered in the last week, Spanish health sources said. “We are moving towards the objective”, tweeted Spanish Health Minister Carolina Darias.

Meanwhile, the fourth update of Spain’s vaccination strategy has been published.

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Easter period causes concern

According to García, there is growing concern that a fourth wave could break right after Easter if mobility restrictions or nightly curfews are relaxed.

Decisions of health authorities in Spain or at EU level need to be taken well in advance, before “it is too late,” he warned.

“We are all very tired, we suffer from fatigue, with this damned situation that has completely changed our lives, and (we are) tired of seeing people suffering, (people) who have not been able to say ‘goodbye’ to their loved ones, and others who have lost their jobs,” he added.

There is still light at the end of the tunnel, however, according to García, who praised Spain’s “excellent” vaccination strategy.

The expert, himself co-author of the country’s vaccination strategy, pointed out that there is “some lack of harmony” in a few Spanish regions that have not implemented the vaccination process “at the right pace” or “have had difficulties” to implement the strategy at full steam, as it was conceived.

Looming summer deadline

With the objective of having 70% of the population immunised by the summer, AEV’s president said that if the country receives the doses at a good pace and “the flow is normalised” by the end of March or April – by the time it plans to also have the Janssen vaccine – “every effort” will be done to inoculate the maximum number of people in the shortest possible period of time.

“The engine is activated, but for it to start working, the fuel [the vaccines] must come,” García stressed.

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[Edited by Daniel Eck and Frédéric Simon]

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