Spain has passed the peak of its third wave of infections, but the number of deaths from COVID-19 continued its brutal surge, according to Health Ministry data from Monday.
Over the weekend, another 909 COVID-19 deaths were reported – the highest figure since Spain began reporting combined weekend data in the summer.
Cases remain high, but are clearly coming down. Another 47,095 infections were detected since Friday – nearly half the figure from two weeks ago.
Hospitalized patients declined slightly, but 22% of all beds and 43% of intensive care units in Spain are still being used to treat patients sick with COVID-19.
“There is still enormous pressure on intensive care units, though we may be at the peak,” said Spain’s chief epidemiologist Fernando Simon on Monday.
“We still haven’t seen the peak of deaths, but that could come within the next week,” he added.
Meanwhile, Spain’s regional governments are scrambling to decide who should get the AstraZeneca vaccine, which on Friday was approved only for 18- to 55-year-olds.
The original plan was for people older than 80 to be next in line for vaccines, after residents in nursing homes and frontline healthcare workers. That group will still be prioritized, but only given the Pfizer/BioNtech and Moderna vaccines.
But Spain received nearly 200,000 doses of AstraZeneca on Monday and will start vaccinations Tuesday without clear central government guidelines for who to vaccinate next in regions where the frontline care workers have already been immunized.
“What doesn’t make sense is for the vaccines to wait around unused while regions wait for final instructions about who to vaccinate next,” said Simon.
“There will be a clear strategy that will need to be followed, but it’s not ready yet.”
The government of Catalonia has said it will begin with pharmacists, while Asturias has said it will prioritize non-frontline healthcare workers and people in prisons.
Officials in Madrid, often critical of central decisions, slammed the Spanish Agency of Medicines for its decision to limit vaccinates to those under 55.
“We don’t agree with the decision since other countries in the EU are using the vaccine for all ages,” Madrid Health Minister Enrique Ruiz Escudero said in an interview with Spain’s Onda Cero.
Spain has administered 2.1 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, with 786,407 people having received the full two shots.