Spain is looking to introduce a registry of those who decide to not be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Spanish Minister of Health Salvador Illa said on Monday that the vaccine will not be made compulsory by law and will remain voluntary, but added the country wishes to record those who are offered the vaccine and decline it "for whatever reason." While the exact reasoning behind this move wasn't explained, it appears to be part of a push to ensure as much as the population is vaccinated against the virus as possible.
“What will be done is a registry, which will be shared with our European partners... of those people who have been offered it and have simply rejected it," Illa told Spanish television channel La Sexta
"It is not a document which will be made public and it will be done with the utmost respect for data protection," he added.
"The way to defeat the virus is by vaccinating all of us," finished Illa.
The country’s mass vaccination campaign kicked off on Sunday, with a 96-year-old woman living in a care home in Guadalajara receiving the country's first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. The roll-out comes as part of the European Union’s coordinated campaign that ambitiously aims to inoculate more than 450 million people across its member states.
Hesitancy towards vaccines is relatively high in Spain. A survey by Ipsos published in November 2020 found that 64 percent of people in Spain “strongly agreed” they would get a vaccine for COVID-19 given the opportunity, which was lower than most of the 15 other countries surveyed.
Spain is currently faced with one of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in Europe and, indeed, the world. According to the Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 Dashboard on December 29, Spain has the ninth highest case rate (1.87 million) and the tenth highest number of reported deaths (over 50,000 deaths) in the world.
The country was especially hard-hit during the early days of the pandemic in March and April. On the day of 2 April 2020, at least 950 people died of COVID-19, which was the highest number of deaths in any country in a single day at the time. In a desperate bid to control the virus, a Spanish coastal resort even doused a beach with bleach in an attempt to protect local kids in late April when lockdown measures were scheduled to ease. Needless to say, environmentalists and local residents weren’t happy.
One of the most prevalent variants of the virus found in Europe over the summer is also thought to have originated in Spain. Researchers found that a huge chunk of the COVID-19 cases in Europe this summer came from a newly identified variant, named 20A.EU1, which first emerged in a super-spreading event at a farm in Spain. After spreading from the farmworkers to the local population, it was then seeded across Europe, most likely through tourism and travel routes.
For more information about COVID-19, check out the IFLScience COVID-19 hub where you can follow the current state of the pandemic, the progress of vaccine development, and further insights into the disease.