The World Today for October 11, 2021


The Iberian Model


Spain has decided to give third doses of coronavirus vaccines to seniors and others who might be vulnerable to the deadly virus. The move specifically targets folks living in nursing homes as well as Spaniards undergoing cancer treatment and others with compromised immune systems, reported Reuters.

Meanwhile, very few people in Spain are not immunized. As El Pais explained, around 80 percent of the country’s citizens have received at least one jab. Around 11 percent of the population is younger than 12 so they can’t receive vaccinations yet. Only around four percent of the country describes themselves as “anti-vaxxers” who are refusing shots.

“Anti-vaxxers are absolutely marginal here, a minority group, and they will not have a big impact (on) Spain’s vaccination campaign,” Spanish Vaccination Association President Amós García told the Local Spain.

The rest are likely migrants or others who are outside of mainstream society and therefore hard to reach, so-called “fence-sitters” who are in no rush to be inoculated and are waiting to see how the pandemic plays out and people who had the virus recently and now must wait.

The vaccination efforts have worked. Spain was an epicenter of the pandemic. But recently, the number of Covid-19 cases over a two-week period has fallen below 100 per 100,000 people. The infection rate hit a peak of 900 per 100,000 in January, noted Al Jazeera.

Neighboring Portugal has seen similar successes. The country has nearly run out of people to vaccinate, the Washington Post wrote. Nightlife and commerce are rebounding in the capital of Lisbon as infection rates and deaths fall. Portugal’s death rate is half the European Union’s average and nine times less than that of the US.

The obvious question is, how did these Iberians do it?

Henrique Gouveia e Melo, the vice admiral and former submarine commander who oversaw Portugal’s vaccination drive, was clear about his success. He worked hard to keep politics out of the issue, he said in an interview with the New York Times. Gouveia e Melo always wore his military uniform when discussing shots in public, eschewed the appearance of cooperating with politicians and forcefully argued against the misinformation about vaccines that was rampant in the country.

A similar dynamic occurred in the Spanish capital of Madrid, the conservative City Journal noted. Officials did not impose a general lockdown during the pandemic because they realized such a polarizing move might trigger a backlash. Instead, they locked down neighborhoods where outbreaks occurred. The largest Spanish city’s death rate is now below the national average.

At the same time, close family ties in both countries play a role. Many adult Spaniards – 55 percent of people between the age of 25 and 29 – still live with their parents, wrote Agence France-Presse. Alejandro Costales, a 30-year-old lawyer, told AFP that getting vaccinated was a way “to care” for his family. “It gives the guarantee that I can go home and not infect them,” he said.

And while the national healthcare system in Spain is held in high regard, a symbol of modernity, which led to deep trust, the country’s traumatic experience with polio in the 1950s played a key role.

Then, as many countries began polio vaccinations, dictator Francisco Franco waited for nearly a decade. As a result, thousands of children got polio leading to physical disabilities and deaths. The Spanish government recently commemorated those infected as victims of the Franco regime, AFP said.

The Spanish remember.

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