Spanish regions cap COVID-19 vaccinations due to slowing supply

·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: Coronavirus disease vaccination in Madrid

MADRID (Reuters) - Delays in vaccine deliveries from abroad are forcing health authorities in Spain's wealthiest regions of Madrid and Catalonia to restrict inoculations against COVID-19 even as a third wave of contagion rages, officials said on Wednesday.

The Madrid region has ceased new vaccinations at least this week and next and was using the few doses it still has to administer second shots to those who have already taken the first one, said deputy regional government chief Ignacio Aguado.

"We need more doses and we need them now," he told reporters on Wednesday, urging newly appointed Health Minister Carolina Darias to act quickly and secure the vaccines.

"She has to move heaven and earth to make it happen, for Madrid and Spain. Because there are lives on the line. If we have to renegotiate with Pfizer, then we should," he said, without going into details on supply bottlenecks.

U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer said last week there would be a temporary delay in shipments to the European Union in late January to early February caused by changes to manufacturing processes made to boost output.

Its announcement angered some European Union governments and the executive European Commission due to the slow pace of vaccine rollouts in the 27-nation bloc.

It is also in dispute with Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca, which developed its shot with Oxford University and notified the EU on Friday that it could not meet supply targets for the first quarter of the year.

Catalonia health secretary Josep Maria Argimon said the region would use up in the coming days all its stockpile of vaccines and will have to administer second shots later than planned due to supply delays, citing an undelivered shipment of Moderna's vaccine scheduled for this week as one example.

The affluent northeastern region of Spain will issue a new request for 30,000 vaccine doses that it expects to administer starting on Feb. 4, Argimon told a news briefing.

Officials in both Madrid and Catalonia warned that at the current pace it would be impossible to reach the national target of 70% of Spain's 47 million population inoculated by July.

Spain has administered just over 1.3 million doses to a priority group of care-home residents and front-line medics, some 10% of whom have already received a second shot.

(Reporting by Inti Landauro, Emma Pinedo, Nathan Allen and Joan Faus; Editing by Andrei Khalip and Mark Heinrich)