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COVID-19

Spain to receive no more AstraZeneca vaccines and donate remaining doses

Spain will receive no more doses of the Oxford-Swedish inoculation, but do health authorities have enough vaccines to give the final second jab to 60 to 69 year olds?

Spain to receive no more AstraZeneca vaccines and donate remaining doses
Photo: GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP

Spain’s Health Ministry has decided it will not order any more doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

This comes after confirmation from regional authorities in the country’s 17 autonomous communities that they have the necessary doses to vaccinate the remaining people in the 60 to 69 age group who received the first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Spain has picked up the pace of vaccination of this group, the only group which was finally allocated the UK-Swedish produced vaccine after a small number of cases involving blood clot side effects. 

With the emergence of the Delta variant in Spain, regional governments brought forward the second AstraZeneca vaccine of people in their sixties, taking the full vaccination rate from under 50 percent in late June to 78 percent on July 19th. 

However, the are still more than a million people in the 60 to 69 age group in Spain who have not received their second and final AZ dose.

According to health authorities, there are enough AstraZeneca doses of the 10 million received still in stock for the remaining people to be fully immunised. 

Remaining vaccines will be donated to COVAX, the Global Access Fund for Covid-19 vaccines.

Back in May, the European Commissioner for the Internal Market Thierry Breton announced that the European Union would not renew the contract with the pharmaceutical company beyond June.

Spain has not received any AstraZeneca vaccines in the last two weeks. 

When the country’s vaccine campaign began in late December 2020, 31 million doses were included in the initial contract, but four deaths from blood clot related problems hampered and halted the campaign. 

Over the last six months, the vaccine has gone from being potentially available to all age groups, to being assigned to 18 to 55 year olds, next being suspended while studies were carried out, then being offered to 18 to 65 year olds and finally being made available to just 60 to 69 year olds. 

As a result it’s been continuously questioned in the Spanish press and brought up in daily talk, but when Spain’s Health Ministry offered a second dose of Pfizer rather than AstraZeneca, an overwhelming majority chose to stick to AZ for the second dose. 

And so Spain just about marks the end of the road for a vaccine that’s been highly questioned, perhaps unfairly, but which has been administered more than 10.3 million times in 2021 and will undoubtedly help in Spain’s race to immunity.

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COVID-19

Did Sweden’s state epidemiologist really get a big job at the WHO?

For his supporters, it was well-deserved, for his detractors a case of failing upwards. But when Sweden's Public Health Agency announced this month that state epidemiologist Anders Tegnell was taking a job at the World Health Organisation, both sides assumed it was true.

Did Sweden's state epidemiologist really get a big job at the WHO?

Now, it seems, the job might not be there after all. 

At the start of this month, Sweden’s Public Health Agency announced that Anders Tegnell was resigning to take up a post coordinating vaccine work with the World Health Organisation in Geneva. 

“I’ve worked with vaccines for 30 years and have at the same time always been inspired by international issues,” Tegnell said in the release. “Now I will have the chance to contribute to this comprehensive international work.”

During the first and second waves of the Covid-19 pandemic, Tegnell shot immediately from obscurity into the spotlight, gaining such celebrity status in Sweden that one fan had his profile tattooed onto his arm.

Internationally he was hailed by lockdown sceptics for his reasoned arguments against overly restrictive measures to control the spread of the virus. 

His new WHO appointment was reported all over the world. 

But on Tuesday, the Svenska Daglabdet newspaper revealed that the job had not yet been awarded. A spokesperson for the WHO said at a press conference in Geneva that “there is some confusion”, and that “this is an internal question.” 

According to the newspaper, there is even “a certain level of irritation” behind the scenes at the WHO that Sweden acted too soon and dispatched Tegnell to a job that did not actually exist yet. 

“We have received an offer from Sweden, which is still under discussion,” the organisation’s press spokesperson, Fadela Chaib, told the newspaper. 

On Thursday, the Public Health Agency’s press chief Christer Janson conceded that there had been a mistake and that the negotiation had not been completed.  

“We believed it was done, but it wasn’t,” he told Expressen in an interview. “It’s been a much longer process to get this completed than we thought. There’s been a misunderstanding and we regret that.” 

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