Spain has decided to extend AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccination to essential workers over 65 years old to protect a small group of people who have not yet retired, the health ministry said on Wednesday.
A number of other European countries have gone further and lifted the age limit altogether, or, like in Germany, are now giving the AstraZeneca vaccine primarily to older people.
The age cap had been imposed because early clinical trials had featured very few people 65 or older.
Spain was so far using the AstraZeneca only for people aged 18-65 years, focusing on essential workers such as police, firefighters or teachers.
Frequently Asked Questions
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
After first inoculating elderly nursing-home residents and their carers and frontline health workers, Spain is now giving shots made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna to people over 80, with those aged over 70 next in line.
The country has administered 7.7 million doses and fully inoculated 2.64 million people and aims to have 70% of its 47 million population vaccinated by the end of summer.