Spain’s elderly get second COVID-19 shot as infection rates soar

Monica Tapias and Araceli Hidalgo sit after receiving the second dose of the vaccine against COVID-19, in Guadalajara, Spain

Faced with new record infection rates, Spain has begun giving second shots of coronavirus vaccines to elderly nursing home residents, while a court in Seville ruled on Monday that one home could inoculate a resident against her family’s wishes.

Like many other countries, Spain is racing to vaccinate in care homes to prevent a repeat of the epidemic’s first wave, which killed some 20,000 residents between March and May, according to preliminary data reported by El Pais newspaper.

In the central city of Guadalajara, 96-year old Araceli Hidalgo Sanchez, Spain’s earliest recipient of a first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, said she was delighted to have received the second and encouraged others to do the same.

Smiling from behind her mask as she walked through the grounds of the Los Olmos nursing home using a walking frame, she said that more than anything she wanted to see her family.

“I haven’t done that since the bug got here.”

New infections have soared in the wake of the Christmas holidays. Nearly 84,300 new cases were reported on Monday, a record rise over the two days since Friday that brought the country’s cumulative total to 2,336,451, government data showed.

By Monday morning, eight of Spain’s 17 regions had got underway with the second round of jabs, the health ministry said.

Although vaccination is voluntary in Spain, a court in the southern city of Seville authorised a nursing home to vaccinate a severely incapacitated 86-year-old woman, despite her son’s objections, in the second such ruling in a week.

The judge presiding over the case said protecting public health must take precedence over the family’s concerns.

“It appears to be the only effective option to adequately safeguard her life against the real risk of developing a serious COVID-19 infection,” the ruling read.

Despite rising infections, the Health Ministry has ruled out a return to nationwide confinement despite calls from regional administrations for tougher measures.

The national government has taken the northern region of Castile and Leon to court over its imposition of an 8 p.m. curfew, which is two hours earlier than permitted under nationwide rules.

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