COVID-19: Has Spain reached herd immunity?

The COVID-19 infection rate in Spain is lower than it has been since last autumn. Nearly 90% of the population over the age of 12 is fully vaccinated, leading people to ask if Spain has reached herd immunity. In a recent report published by the prestigious medical journal, Lancet scientists suggest that Spain may be close to achieving herd immunity.

“Experts are beginning to believe the country is on the cusp of reaching something that barely seemed possible even weeks ago—herd immunity,” reads the article.
Spain, along with Italy, were the two countries in Europe to be struck by the first wave of the virus. However, following a strict lockdown imposed on Spanish citizens, the country has fared much better than its European neighbors. Spanish authorities believe that the government’s rapid vaccination program and the people’s willingness to get vaccinated has led to the success.

Regarding herd immunity, Spanish health authorities have determined the herd immunity threshold based on the effectiveness of vaccines and the R number (the average number of people that one person with COVID-19 will infect.

What the experts believe

“We still don’t know the exact proportion of the population that needs to be immune to reach herd immunity for SARS-CoV-2. We need to understand better the duration and protection of transmission generated from both vaccination and previous COVID-19 infection”, Jesús Rodríguez Baño, head of infectious diseases at the Virgen de la Macarena Hospital in Seville, told The Lancet.

“However, the situation in Spain might provide some clues: after leaving behind most of the control measures in the population, the infection rate (and particularly the hospital admission rate) has been going down. This is the opposite of what happened with previous waves.

“The only plausible explanation is the very high rate of vaccination in the country,” Baño concluded.

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