MADRID (Reuters) – Delays to COVID-19 vaccine shipments have forced authorities in Madrid to halt inoculations and are threatening supplies in Catalonia, Spanish officials said on Wednesday.
The Madrid region has ceased first vaccinations for at least this week and next and was using the few doses it has to administer second shots to those who have had the first one, said deputy regional government chief Ignacio Aguado.
“We need more doses and we need them now,” he told reporters on Wednesday, urging newly appointed Health Minister Carolina Darias to act quickly to secure the shots.
U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer said last week there would be a temporary slow down in shipments to the European Union in late January caused by changes to manufacturing processes to ultimately boost output.
The announcement angered some EU governments and the executive European Commission due to the slow pace of vaccine roll outs in the 27-nation bloc.
It is also in dispute with Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca, which developed its shot with Oxford University and notified the EU on Friday that it could not meet supply targets for the first quarter of the year.
Spain’s 14-day incidence of the virus hit a record 900 cases per 100,000 people on Wednesday and the Health Ministry reported 40,285 new infections and 492 deaths.
Officials in Madrid and Catalonia said at the current pace it would be impossible to reach the national target of 70% of Spain’s 47 million population vaccinated by July.
Catalan health secretary Josep Maria Argimon said the region would use up all its stockpile of vaccines in the coming days and will have to administer second shots later than planned due to supply delays, citing an undelivered shipment of the Moderna vaccine scheduled for this week as one example.
The affluent northeastern region will issue a new request for 30,000 vaccine doses that it expects to administer starting on Feb. 4, Argimon told a news briefing.
Spain has administered just over 1.3 million doses to a priority group of care-home residents and frontline medics, around 77% of its current stocks.
(Reporting by Inti Landauro, Emma Pinedo, Nathan Allen and Joan Faus; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Janet Lawrence)