MADRID (Reuters) – Spain stands to receive its first vaccines against COVID-19 developed by Pfizer PFE.N and its partner BioNTech 22UAy.DE in early 2021, the health minister said on Tuesday, under a deal being negotiated by the European Union.
The EU hopes to sign a contract soon for millions of doses of the vaccine, the European Commission announced on Monday, hours after the two companies said it had proved more than 90% effective, in what could be a major victory in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
Spain would initially get 20 million vaccine doses, enough to immunize 10 million people, Health Minister Salvador Illa said on state broadcaster TVE, adding that the vaccination would be free.
Enough people would be vaccinated by April-May, so that the fight against the pandemic in Spain would move to another stage, Illa added.
A total of 39,756 people have died of the virus in Spain, many regions of which are back under lockdown restrictions to stem the spread of the disease. The death toll on Tuesday rose by 411 – the largest daily tally in the country’s second wave.
Spain recorded 17,395 new cases of coronavirus on Tuesday, health ministry data showed, retreating from highs of more than 20,000 recorded last week and bringing the total to just below 1.4 million – one of the highest in western Europe.
Pfizer has offered to help with the logistics to distribute the vaccine, which has to be kept deep frozen to be effective, Science Minister Pedro Duque told a news briefing.
Spain’s central and regional governments will make a decision on who will have priority based on “medical criteria”, Duque said.
Illa said the Spanish government would act to convince a substantial portion of the population which public opinion polls suggest are wary of any vaccine against COVID-19.
“We will tell the truth, which is that vaccines save lives,” Illa said.
Reporting by Inti Landauro, Belen Carreno and Nathan Allen; Editing by Sonya Dowsett and Grant McCool