In a move that conspiracy theory minded people around the world are sure to take in stride, Spain has announced that it will keep a register of all citizens who refuse to take the COVID-19 vaccine.
The country was an early epicenter of the virus and a quick adapter of strict lockdowns. They rank among the top 10 countries worldwide in terms of confirmed coronavirus cases with nearly 2 million, but still fall well below the world-leading United States at nearly 20 million. Spanish Health Minister Salvador Illa said that the information would be for the use of health officials only.
"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," he said in a televised interview with La Sexta. "It is not a document which will be made public and it will be done with the utmost respect for data protection."
States across the European Union are rolling out their version of the vaccine, developed by Pfizer and German company BioNTech. In other interviews, Spanish officials have shared the rationale behind the register: They want to understand the reasons why citizens would decline the vaccine. Maria Jesus Lamas of Spain's Medicines Agency said that the hope is to "understand the causes behind declining the vaccination" and added that the registry would be anonymous.
"There's no chance of identifying anyone in the registry," she said in an interview with SER radio.
Illa reiterated that citizens were allowed to refuse the vaccine for any reason. Spain has been incredibly strict during the pandemic and still has overnight curfews in place through the spring, but Illa assured viewers that they still have the ultimate right to control what goes into their own bodies.
"People who decide not to get vaccinated, which we think is a mistake, are within their rights," he said during a press conference. "We are going to try to solve doubts. Getting vaccinated saves lives, it is the way out of this pandemic."