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Darias: Seventy per cent of the population vaccinated in one and a half months will be a leap forwards in controlling the pandemic.

Tuesday 13 July 2021

With the involvement of the entire National Health System (NHS), Darias stressed that 70% of the population will be vaccinated within one and a half months, which will be a great leap forwards in controlling the pandemic in our country.

During her appearance at the Health and Consumer Affairs Committee of the Spanish Lower House of Parliament, Darias, who began by remembering those who had died during the pandemic, insisted on the need to control the spread of the virus thanks to the combination of the measures adopted by the regional governments, the responsible actions of the public and, fundamentally, the mass vaccination campaign against COVID-19.

As the minister recalled, the virus continues to attack, above all, vulnerable people and those who are not yet protected, which is why, she said, our country must maintain a very active culture of care while continuing to administer the vaccines.

On this point, she also pointed out that the vaccination campaign is making a difference in the current pandemic, which raises the need for a new integrated look at the indicators that make up the risk scorecard (cumulative incidence at 14 and 7 days, hospitalisations, ICU hospitalisations, among others).

Thus, she argued, it is not a matter of dispensing with any of the indicators, but of weighing them in the epidemiological situation and the evolution of vaccinations in our country.

Royal Decree on in vitro diagnostic medical devices

The Minister for Health stressed the need to increase the diagnostic capacity of the National Health System in order to rapidly identify suspected positive cases of SARS-CoV-2 in order to take appropriate measures to effectively control the progression of the pandemic.

She cited the latest measures adopted by the Executive to strengthen early diagnosis and screening measures against COVID-19, with the offer to the Regional Governments of antigen tests that form part of the Strategic Reserve of the Ministry for Health, as well as the offer of the Ministry for Defence to expand the teams of contact tracers already available to the Regional Governments.

In this context, Darias announced that she will submit the draft Royal Decree on in vitro diagnostic medical devices to the Council of Ministers on Tuesday 20 July, with the aim of regulating the sale to the public and advertising COVID-19 self-diagnostic products, once it has been approved by the State Council on 8 July.

Therefore, she explained, it is necessary to establish extraordinary measures in order to facilitate access to COVID-19 self-testing and, taking into account that the prescription requirement for the sale of these products to the public would constitute a significant barrier to their use, it is appropriate to include them among the self-testing products exempt from the need for prescription for their purchase in pharmacies.

The Minister for Health also analysed the current situation with regard to variants of interest to our country. Thus, Alpha or B.1.1.7 is the majority in our country with 70% to 80% of diagnosed cases, while very sporadic cases of Beta and Gamma variants are reported. As for the Delta variant (B.1.617.2), Darias detailed that it has a very variable presence in Spain, so that in some places no cases have been identified and in others it represents more than 30%.

On this point, she assessed the control measures for limiting flights from countries at risk, the different quarantines approved and their extensions, as well as the work deployed by the Foreign Health staff at the 74 primary checkpoints and 40 secondary checkpoints at our airports.

State Vaccination Strategy and Vaccination Campaign

The Minister for Health has detailed the current status of both the State Vaccination Strategy and the COVID-19 vaccination campaign in Spain.

She pointed out that the Public Health Commission approved update 8 of the Strategy on 22 June, including, among others, vaccination for pregnant and breastfeeding women and the extension of vaccination with Comirnaty to people aged 12 and over with very high-risk conditions, those who are highly dependent and those who attend care centres for the intellectually disabled, sheltered and special education centres.

Update 8 also specifies the groups 11 to 13 to be vaccinated, those aged 30 to 39; 20 to 29; and 12 to 19. The reduction of the vaccination interval between doses in the Vaxzevria regimen to 8-12 weeks was also approved.

She also highlighted the spectacular pace at which the vaccination campaign is progressing in Spain, with 3.8 million doses in the last week, making Spain one of the EU countries that has vaccinated the most in the last 7 days.

As of Monday, 47.8 million doses had been administered in Spain since the start of the campaign, after adding more than 1.1 million this weekend.

Thanks to the good progress of the campaign, Darias pointed out, key ratios of complete vaccination schedule by age groups have been achieved and next week it will be possible to exceed 90% immunisation among people aged 60 to 69. Similarly, she confirmed that the Executive remains committed towards the next target set: Twenty-five million people fully vaccinated within the next week.

In fact, with the consolidated data as of Monday, almost 28 million people have at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in our country and almost 22 million have been fully vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2.

As far as the European Union is concerned, Spain ranks sixth among the Member States in the percentage of people vaccinated with a single dose, fourth in the percentage of people fully vaccinated and third in the percentage of the population vaccinated daily. Spain was also one of the first countries to achieve full immunisation of almost all those aged over 80 and is also close to 100% coverage among those over 70.

On the other hand, the Government has invested more than 4 billion euros in vaccines, not only for 2021, but also for 2022 and 2023. "It is undoubtedly the best investment we have made," Darias said.

Tools against COVID-19

The Minister for Health highlighted the common strategy developed within the Interterritorial Council of the National Health System and the co-governance that has characterised decision-making during the more than a year and a half of the pandemic.

This co-governance has facilitated the implementation of tools such as the Strategy for Early Detection, Monitoring and Control of COVID-19, the Early Response Plan in a scenario of controlling the COVID-19 pandemic, the Protocol for the integration of genomic sequencing in the monitoring of SARS-CoV-2, the Strategy for coordinated response actions to control the transmission of COVID-19, the Declarations of Coordinated Actions or the State Vaccination Strategy, "our best tool", said Darias.

"The joint response of all public authorities within the framework of the CISNS has saved thousands of lives and will allow us to move towards normality in the best possible conditions and in the shortest possible time," she stressed.

Along the same lines, she valued the approval, among others, of the Declaration of Coordinated Actions for the next academic year, or the updating of the "Guide for the prevention and control of COVID-19 on farms that employ seasonal workers".

Almost 10,000 new professionals

On the other hand, the Minister for Health gave an account in the Health and Consumer Committee of the Lower House of Parliament of the results of the selection and awarding process for Specialised Health Training places this year; a process that ended on Saturday 10th July, which has been carried out, for the first time, entirely online and which Darias described as a success.

Thus, a total of 9,845 Specialised Health Training places have been awarded among the different qualifications, so that "we have responded to the largest public offering with the largest incorporation of specialised personnel into our National Health System", emphasised the Minister for Health, who also valued the safety and transparency of the entire process.

Darias has confirmed that all of these people will be able to join their respective places next week (two months earlier than in the previous call), and has advanced that the next call will take place at the beginning of 2022 and will incorporate new technical improvements to make the choice even easier. These improvements will be agreed with all parties involved, for which dialogue will begin in September.

INVEAT Plan

On the other hand, she referred to the advances that are being made in the Ministry's strategic lines for the current legislature, which show the Executive's intention to respond to not only the urgent, but also the important. In this regard, she referred to the High-Level Technology Equipment Investment Plan (INVEAT Plan), which will strengthen and expand the capacities of the National Health System.

As detailed by Darias, the INVEAT Plan will contribute to increasing the preventive, care, equity and cohesion capacity, as well as the capacity for adaptation and resilience of the NHS, with the installation of 847 high-tech pieces equipment to diagnose diseases in the early stages and follow with rapid therapeutic intervention.

The distribution of the 796 million euro budget for this Plan, the Minister for Health recalled, was approved at the Interterritorial Council of the NHS on 30 June in the Upper House of Parliament, the first in person since 4 February 2020.

EU Digital COVID Certificate

Finally, the Minister for Health reported, among other things, on the degree of implementation in our country of the European Union's Digital COVID Certificate (EU-DCC), 12 days after the entry into force of the European Regulation.

As detailed by Darias, more than 7.5 million certificates have already been issued and more than 500 laboratories are already integrated and can therefore issue diagnostic test certificates.

In terms of validation at airports, more than 170,000 travellers have been able to benefit from Spain's Fast Control gateway, using EU COVID Digital Certificates in the Spain Travel Health application.

Non official translation