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Spain will have vaccinated a large part of its population of 47 million against the coronavirus by mid-2021, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced Friday.
He said the government had put together “a comprehensive vaccination plan” that would be presented at Tuesday’s cabinet meeting, making Spain the first within the European Union, alongside Germany, to fully map out such an immunisation scheme.
“We are ready,” Sanchez said, indicating the government had been working on the plan since September.
“Our forecasts, under almost any reasonable scenario, show that a very substantial part of the Spanish population will be able to be vaccinated, with all guarantees, within the first half of the year.”
The move, he said, would make Spain “the first country within the EU, along with Germany, to have a full vaccination plan.”
Spain has been badly hit by the pandemic, suffering more than 1.5 million confirmed infections — the EU’s second-highest number of cases after France.
As of Thursday night, it had also lost 42,291 lives to the virus, ranking fourth within the bloc after the United Kingdom, Italy and France.
Last month, Health Minister Salvador Illa said the government had authorised the purchase of 31.5 million doses of a Covid-19 vaccine currently being developed by British pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca.
The supply of the vaccine is part of an EU scheme and it could start reaching Spain in December “if there are no delays,” he said at the time.
Major pharmaceutical companies are now closing in on vaccines against the virus which has infected more than 55 million people and caused more than 1.3 million deaths worldwide, according to an AFP tally.
US giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech have taken the lead in the global chase for a vaccine alongside US firm Moderna, with the EU saying it was hoping to have both products approved for use by the year’s end.
The European Medicines Agency could give “conditional marketing authorisations … as early as the second half of December if all proceeds now without any problem,” EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said.
The EU has contracts to reserve hundreds of millions of doses of future vaccines with BioNTech, Purevac, AstraZeneca and Sanofi if they can be brought to market.
A candidate vaccine being developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca has also been shown to be safe and effective in a smaller study of older adults.
Earlier this week, Spain’s AEMPS medicines agency approved the country’s first phase three trial for a Covid-19 vaccine, one of nine nations to take part in the process.
© Agence France-Presse
Weekend of Mass Virus Testing in Italy’s South Tyrol
Health authorities in Italy’s South Tyrol region began a three-day programme of mass screening for coronavirus Friday, seeking to conduct voluntary rapid tests on 70 percent of the local population.
The mainly German-speaking province in northern Italy, also known as Alto Adige, said infection rates had “reached such proportions” to make testing 350,000 people key to quickly rooting out virus spreaders.
By 0900 GMT the province had tested more than 24,000 people and found 596 positive for Covid-19.
South Tyrol is currently classified as a “red” or high-risk zone under Italy’s system of regional coronavirus restrictions.
The mass screening in the area, which includes part of the Dolomites range, comes ahead of the planned reopening of primary schools and nurseries on Tuesday.
Italy was the first country in Europe to bet big on rapid “antigen” coronavirus tests, and its apparent success encouraged Britain, the United States, Slovakia and others to follow suit.
However the tests, which are roughly 80 to 90 percent accurate, have not stopped an outbreak that has rocketed from around 500 cases a day in August, when they were first rolled out, to more than 35,000 now.
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