(Adds details, quote, latest infections, death toll)
MADRID, Dec 23 (Reuters) - Spain will receive 350,000 doses per week of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine starting on Saturday, Health Minister Salvador Illa said on Wednesday, as infection rates surge in the country.
A total of nearly 4.6 million doses will be delivered by mid-March.
A first batch containing an unspecified amount will be delivered to the city of Guadalajara in central Spain, where vaccination will begin on Sunday.
The vaccine will then be distributed to other regions, on the basis of the share of the population considered vulnerable.
“We will have the beginning of the end (of the pandemic) on Dec. 27. But it is going to take a few months to materialise,” Illa told a news conference.
He estimated that at least 2.3 million people will be inoculated with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, with other vaccines to follow after gaining EU approval.
The government has said it aims to vaccinate between 15 million and 20 million people, out of Spain’s population of around 47 million, in the first half of 2021.
The first people to be vaccinated will be residents and staff at nursing homes, followed by frontline health workers.
After a devastating first wave, Spain used a nationwide curfew and a regional restriction to contain a second wave.
But daily infections and deaths have increased over the last week after several public holidays.
“The rise worries us a lot. Things are not evolving well”, Illa said.
The Health Ministry reported 12.386 new infections on Wednesday, bringing the cumulative total to 1,842,289, while the death toll rose by 178 to 49,698. New infections reached nearly 254 per 100,000 people measured over the last 14 days, up from below 200 just 10 days ago. (Reporting by Belen Carreno; editing by Andrei Khalip and Barbara Lewis)