Spanish officials under fire for jumping vaccine queue as COVID-19 cases rise By Reuters

Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine produces strong immune response in early trial

By Nathan Allen and Emma Pinedo MADRID, (Reuters) – A steady trickle of public officials admitting to having been vaccinated before priority groups has sparked uproar on social media in Spain at a time when several regions are tightening restrictions in a effort to stem an increase in infections. Several local mayors admitted to being vaccinated before their shift, while the regional health chief for the Ceuta enclave was widely criticized both for getting vaccinated early and for saying that he had done so under pressure from his staff. “I didn’t want to. They don’t even give me the flu vaccine. I don’t like vaccines,” said Javier Guerrero, of the conservative opposition Popular Party. One Twitter user hoped it would at least encourage citizens to have a chance: “The reluctant citizen will see that if politicians sign up first, breaking all the rules, it must be a very good thing,” wrote @Juanmalucky. Some called for the resignation of those who could not wait their turn. “The scoundrels who have been vaccinated by jumping the queue using their privileged position as public officials (more and more appear every day) must, of course, resign,” Pablo Echenique, spokesman for the far-left United We Can party, tweeted. BIG INFECTIONS The Minister of Defense, Margarita Robles, asked General Miguel Ángel Villaroya, chief of the Defense General Staff, for an explanation, after the newspaper El Mundo and the Europa Press Agency reported that he and other high-ranking military commanders had already been vaccinated. Villaroya has not publicly confirmed whether he has been vaccinated. He could not be reached for comment on Friday. Infection rates throughout the country have skyrocketed since the end of December, which has made the incidence of the virus in Spain in 14 days exceed 800 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. But the Health Ministry has allowed regional authorities to set their own rules within national guidelines, creating a confusing mosaic of different measures to stop the spread of the virus. The Basque Country limited meetings to four people on Friday, while the island of Ibiza closed its borders to non-essential traffic. In sparsely populated Extremadura, which has the highest incidence in Spain with nearly 1,470 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, troops began converting a conference center into a makeshift field hospital. In Madrid, some 50 medical staff members protested in front of the La Paz hospital against being removed from their regular jobs to staff a hospital built for COVID-19 patients. The unions say this is a costly waste of resources from the rest of the health service. “It is totally unnecessary … We have old hospitals that could have been renovated,” said Marco Portillo, a nurse and union organizer at the protest.

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