Spain prepares COVID-19 vaccine rollout surge as supplies gather pace

MADRID — Spain is stepping up its vaccination drive, with Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez saying Tuesday that a steep rise in deliveries over coming months will allow the country to inoculate 70% of its adult population — some 33 million people — against COVID-19 by the end of August.

“The priority now, more than ever, is to vaccinate without respite,” Sanchez told a news conference. “Vaccinate, vaccinate and vaccinate,” he said.

Spain’s new COVID-19 infections have been edging higher in recent weeks. The 14-day cumulative incidence — a key contagion metric — rose Monday to 163 cases per 100,000 people, from 149 a week earlier.

Spain expects to receive 87 million doses by September. “Anyone who wants a vaccine will be able to get one,” Sanchez said.

Those deliveries will include 38 million between April and June — 3.5 times more than in January-March, Sanchez said, when vaccine deliveries across Europe fell short of expectations.

To help the rollout pick up speed, some cities are opening mass vaccination centres. The Spanish health system has capacity to inoculate 3.5 million people a week, according to Sanchez.

Sanchez set out a series of intended milestones: 5 million people vaccinated by the first week of May, 10 million by early June, 15 million by mid-June and 25 million by July 15.

Supplies of the recently approved Janssen vaccine will help add momentum to the rollout, with 5 million of those jabs expected by the end of June.

“We are at the beginning of the end of the pandemic,” Sanchez said, though such hopes have risen before in Europe only to be dashed by unforeseen problems with vaccine production.

He said that under the national vaccination program about 98% of people who live in elderly care homes or who are disabled have already received a first jab, while almost 80% of people over the age of 80 have had their first dose.

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