Twelve months without a hug

Twelve months without a hug
Twelve months without a hug

  • A year that changed everything

With the current vaccination rate, it would take years to immunise the entire Spanish population. This phrase, repeated by many political leaders, is true, but it does not tell us anything that we have not known since the beginning of the year.

The delays in delivery of the vaccine that we have seen to date here in Spain are not significantly changing the forecasts that were made as the key to reaching 70% of the population during the summer will be the arrival of the vaccine by the end of spring.

The plan was for the program to accelerate as laboratories produced more doses and as new drugs were approved.

But while the delays in the arrival of vaccines have forced planners to amend the vaccination program they have not significantly altered the original forecast of the number of doses reaching Spain in the first trimester.

What will determine if the objectives of vaccinating the bulk of the population in summer are met are not the drugs that arrive in January and February, which as planned were always going to be very limited, but those that will be received in the coming weeks and months.

However, from vaccine hopes to ubiquitous masks and to economic pains to, our lives look vastly different from this time one year ago.

If you could go back to January 2020 to warn people of what was about to happen, what would you say? The magnitude of change to all our lives back then was unimaginable, the scale of loss unbearable.

A year ago the coronavirus was a distant threat but as people were flown back into Europe and the USA from the epicentre, Wuhan in China, and put into strict quarantine, the virus had already arrived.

For the first few weeks it was hoped that the situation could be contained but by March the position was serious. Spain was one of the first to implement drastic measures in a bid to tackle the fast-spreading coronavirus.

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez first addressed the nation on Saturday evening, 14 March, to announce the moves being taken in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus. Following 6,271 confirmed cases and 189 deaths, he was putting the country into lockdown.

It was only the second time in 40 years that the National Council of Ministers had declared a State of Emergency in Spain.

As businesses were closed down, movements limited and as social and work routines dramatically changed, Sánchez warned of “very difficult weeks” involving “enormous efforts and sacrifices”

How true his words have since proved to be.

Lockdowns and calls for physical distancing led to companies shifting to work from home, travel restrictions, mask-wearing rules, cancellation of major events, and video meetings replacing in-person interactions as people were asked to avoid seeing anyone, even loved ones, no longer being able to hug our grandchildren as well as our isolation from friends, family and co-workers,

But the lockdown did have some effect and together with the hard work of all those medical personnel on the front line, which was recognised with a daily ‘clap for carers’, by summer life felt a bit more normal, but a second wave was coming, proving to be even more deadly than the first.

The first vaccinations, a triumph of science, came too late for many thousands of people. After a year of grief, loss, fear and loneliness, vaccines now offer some light at the end of the tunnel, but still, no one can say when life will get back to normal. That will very much depend on how the vaccination program develops.

After phase 1, the next population group to be vaccinated will be those who are over 80 years of age, 2.8 million people, but that will very much depend on whether or not the Oxford vaccine can be administered to people over 65 years old, something that the Ministry of Health is currently studying.

Although trials have shown the vaccine to be safe, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), the reference in Germany for infectious diseases, has said that the sample was not statistically significant in determining its effectiveness in people over 65.

The UK government have called the announcement ‘Brexiteering’ while Dr June Raine, the chief executive of the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), said: “Current evidence does not suggest any lack of protection against Covid-19 in people aged 65 or over. The data we have shows that the vaccine produces a strong immune response in the over-65s.”

Spain, through the EU, has signed contracts with seven companies, to purchase seven different vaccines, totalling 140 million doses, which would allow the immunisation of 80 million people (most require a double dose).

The forecast is that by the second quarter, the companies that have already approved their drug (Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca) will be producing vaccines at a much quicker rate, so the quantities being received at that stage should be many more.

Spain still forecasts that it will be able to vaccinate 28 million people, 70% of the population, by the end of the third trimesters by which time it is hoped that life will be getting back to some semblance of normality.

It’s been a tough 12 months, but maybe one of the quiet legacies of the pandemic will be that we’re all a little tougher — and hopefully kinder, too, but it still won’t alter the fact that when we do return to normality we will be a nation scarred by a year and a half in which everything changed.