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Spaniards queue up for shots, hoping to leave COVID behind them

·2 min read
A nurse prepares a syringe with a dose of the Moderna coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine in Madrid

By Elena Rodriguez and Joan Faus

MADRID (Reuters) - Spaniards who took one of the biggest hits from COVID-19 at the start of the pandemic are now among some of the keenest when it comes to getting vaccines, figures show.

Other countries have tried a range of measures to push their people to getting inoculated, from cash incentives to direct orders to bans on visiting bars without evidence of a shot.

Not in Madrid's Isabel Zendal hospital where staff say young people are coming in without incentives, keen to get back to their normal lives.

"What we see here is a 'party' every day," said Fernando Prado, a chief nurse. "They know that the sooner they are immunized the faster we will have left this behind."

Only 5% of the population in Spain are not willing to get a COVID-19 shot, well below the 13% in France or the 19% in the United States, according to a survey by Morning Consult pollsters published on Thursday.

Among the main drivers of that, health chiefs say, are the memories of the first wave of the pandemic in Spain that struck in March 2020, when more than 800 deaths were registered every day.

From those depths, Spain has risen steadily up the world rankings, particularly in vaccination rates, though there were initial supply problems.

In the terms of the percentage of the population given at least one dose, Spain is sitting in a respectable 11th place worldwide and 4th in the European Union, according to the latest figures on Reuters' COVID tracker https://graphics.reuters.com/world-coronavirus-tracker-and-maps/vaccination-rollout-and-access.

"In its strategy against the pandemic, Spain put most of its faith in the vaccination ... and people believed in it," said Quique Bassat, a researcher at Barcelona's Global Health Institute.

There have been other setbacks along the way. Some areas have seen an uptick in infections in recent weeks, prompting them to reimpose night curfews.

Bassat said the country had lifted some restrictions too fast and warned that herd immunity would likely not be reached until a full 90% of the population was vaccinated due to the spread of the more contagious Delta variant.

But the vaccination numbers keep climbing. Everybody aged over 80 is already fully vaccinated, as are 84.4% of those aged 60, according to government figures.

People as young as 16 were able to start booking a shot from July 12 in the Madrid region.

Nineteen year-old Carmen Sanchez said she felt relieved after getting a jab on Friday. "I think it's crucial after everything we have lived through, the number of people we have lost."

(Reporting by Joan Faus in Barcelona, additional reporting by Elena Rodriguez and Inti Landauro in Madrid, Writing by Joan Faus and Ingrid Melander, Editing by Angus MacSwan and Andrew Heavens)

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