Spain, among the European countries worst affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, has said that it will be maintaining a register of persons who refuse to be vaccinated against the virus. Salvador Illa, the country’s health minister said in an interview on Monday that the list of people who reject the vaccine for “whatever reason”, would remain private and not be accessible to the public or employers, but will be shared with other European Union nations.
Since Sunday, Spain’s regional governments have been administering the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which EU regulators authorised last week.
The ‘vaccine deniers’ registry
Speaking to the La Sexta TV channel, Illa said although Spain has not made vaccination compulsory, it plans to maintain a list of people who refuse to get inoculated, and record the reasons behind their refusal.
A BBC report quoted Illa, “What will be done is a register, which will be shared with our European partners… of those people who have been offered it and have simply rejected it.” The documentation will take place as is currently done for people with certain other treatments, he said.
The minister said the list would not be made public, in line with the country’s data protection laws, adding, “People who are offered a therapy that they refuse for any reason, it will be noted in the register… that there is no error in the system, not to have given this person the possibility of being vaccinated.”
The European Commission has so far not confirmed whether this is a EU-wide effort, or what role the EU would play in data sharing, The Guardian reported.
In separate comments made the same day, Illa said that Spain’s 17 regional governments–who are in charge of administering vaccines– would contact people to solve doubts related to vaccination when it was their turn to get the shot.
Also on Monday, Maria Jesus Lamas, the head of Spain’s Medicines Agency, said that the registry would be used “to understand the causes behind declining the vaccination … doubt or rejection,” CNN reported.
As per the CNN report, Spain’s southern Andalusia region is maintaining a register for quality control purposes that consists of people who are given the vaccine, as well as its batch number and who administered it.
Significance of the decision
Experts say the initiative has been announced in order to address reluctance to get vaccinated, just as many have warned that a third wave of the pandemic might hit Spain. Illa has said the way to defeat the coronavirus was “to vaccinate all of us – the more the better”.
Critics, though, have warned against potential misuse of the list, saying that it could be used to infringe upon the liberties of people placed in it.
So far, Spain has registered more than 18 lakh infections during the pandemic–ninth in the world as per John Hopkins data– and the number of deaths crossed the 50,000 mark on Monday. The country has been placed under a nationwide curfew from 11 pm to 6 am until May, and non-essential businesses including restaurants and bars have been closed.
Spain, which gave the first vaccine dose to a 96-year-old woman living in a care home on Sunday, will in the coming weeks focus on the most vulnerable along with healthcare workers. The Spanish government expects that 1.5-2 crore people out of a population of 4.7 crore would get inoculated by June.
As per a recent poll, the number of Spaniards who said that they would not take a vaccine has dropped to 28 per cent in December from 47 per cent last month.
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