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'Nothing worse than COVID' - Spaniards line up as AstraZeneca shots resume

MADRID (Reuters) - Spain restarted using AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday, with little sign public enthusiasm has been dented by a week-long suspension over potential side effects.

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Along with a dozen other European countries, Spain stopped using the shot early last week amid concerns of a rare blood-clotting condition, but then revoked the suspension after Europe’s medicines agency backed the vaccine.

“We have to put prejudice and urban myths aside and move forward,” civil servant Jose Manuel Plaza said from his car after getting the shot at a drive-through vaccination clinic in the southern province of Huelva.

Some countries, including Germany, have reported a reluctance among some people to have the AstraZeneca shot following the suspension, creating a headache for authorities dealing with a new wave of infections.

After falling to its lowest level since August, Spain’s infection rate as measured over the preceding 14 days has begun to creep up, rising to 132 cases per 100,000 people on Wednesday from 129 cases the day before.

While a far cry from January’s peak of 900 cases per 100,000 people, the increase is causing concern ahead of the Easter holidays.

The health ministry reported 7,026 cases on Thursday, accelerating from the previous day’s count of 5,516, and bringing the tally to 3.24 million. The death toll rose by 320 to 74,064.

Under Spain’s vaccination strategy, AstraZeneca shots are given to key workers up to 65 years old, while vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are reserved for elderly and clinically vulnerable people.

Authorities have administered nearly one million AstraZeneca shots out of a total of 6.4 million.

Outside Atletico Madrid’s Wanda football stadium, which has been converted into a mass vaccination centre, people queued up to receive their injection.

“I am happy to receive the vaccine. I think that you have to be positive and there is nothing worse than COVID,” said 30-year old health worker Cristina Gonzalez.

Reporting by Mariano Valladolid in Huelva and Sergio Perez in Madrid. Additional reporting by Joan Faus. Writing by Nathan Allen; Editing by Andrei Khalip, Mark Potter, William Maclean

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