The Ministry of Health has sent a query to the Bioethics Committee of Spain on whether it is acceptable for 1.5 million essential workers under 60 years old – teachers, police, military … – who received a first dose of the vaccine against the AstraZeneca’s coronavirus can choose whether to complete the guideline with a second prick of the same serum or to do so with that of Pfizer, as confirmed by three health sources to EL PAÍS.
This last option is the one agreed on Tuesday by the Public Health Commission, made up of the general directors of Public Health of the autonomous communities and those responsible for the area of the Ministry of Health. Despite this, and at the request of some communities, the Commission left the door open for those affected, who have been waiting for a response for months, to complete their vaccination with AstraZeneca if they decide to do so themselves.
“The question to the Committee is whether it is ethical to offer the citizens involved, and given the circumstances, the possibility of choosing between one vaccine and another,” explains a senior health official. “One of the pillars of the vaccination strategy in Spain is that the patient could not choose due to the lack of sufficient doses for the entire population. But the special situation that this group is experiencing and the position of several autonomous communities have led to this possibility ”, adds this source.
The Bioethics Committee is an advisory body created in 2007 that “has the mission of issuing reports, proposals and recommendations for public powers at the state and regional level on matters related to the ethical and social implications of Biomedicine and Health Sciences” , as stated in the presentation of the body.
The Ministry of Health and the Committee itself have declined to inform this newspaper about the consultation nor have they specified when the answer could be ready.
The consultation with the Bioethics Committee is the latest chapter in a management that has been complicated since March on what second dose to administer to this group and that has ended up adding criticism and dividing the Spanish medical and scientific class. The origin of the problem is in the detection of some cases of thrombi, very rare but serious, among people who had received the first dose of AstraZeneca. Although this is a subject still under investigation, the first data suggest that these episodes are more frequent among women and younger people.
Health and the communities decided on April 7 to suspend the administration of this vaccine to those under 60 years of age, which opened a window of about 12 weeks (time that must elapse between both doses) to decide what to do with the 1, 5 million essential workers who had received the first.
Some countries such as Germany and France chose to administer to this group the second dose of the so-called messenger RNA vaccines (Pfizer or Moderna), while Spain decided to carry out a study on whether it was safe to do so or not. As the study was not finished before the 12 weeks were completed, Health decided to extend the separation between the two doses to 16 weeks, a period that was now beginning to end as well.
This study is the one that was presented yesterday and some experts, without questioning the quality of the work done, do question that with only 600 participants it allows detecting the side effects that occur less frequently.
During the investigation, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) had recommended administering the second dose of AstraZeneca, the same as they also made 17 Spanish scientific societies. This sector regrets that “there has been a growing social tension of distrust towards vaccines, motivated in part by changing decisions regarding the age ranges” to be immunized with the AstraZeneca vaccine.