Backlash in Spain over princesses getting UAE vaccines

Princess Cristina of Spain (L) and Princess Elena of Spain (R) are seen in December 2017 file photograph wearing outdoor clothes
The sisters said they were “offered” the vaccine while visiting their father

A revelation that two sisters of Spain’s King Felipe VI were vaccinated during a trip to Abu Dhabi last month has sparked a political backlash. Media reports revealed Princess Elena, 57, and Princess Cristina, 55, had got the jab whilst visiting their father.

The former King, Juan Carlos, left the country in 2020 amid mounting scandals. Both princesses, who do not yet qualify to get a vaccine under Spain’s roll-out, defended and explained their decision on Wednesday. “My sister and I went to visit my father and in order to be issued with a medical certificate which will allow us to continue to visit him regularly, we were offered the chance to get vaccinated, which we accepted,” they said in a statement to El Mundo on Wednesday. “Had it not been for these circumstances, we would have waited for our turn to get vaccinated to come around in Spain,” they added.

Juan Carlos has been living in self-exile in the United Arab EmirateĀ (UAE) since last August, although he denied wrongdoing regarding mounting corruption allegations, his departure heightened debate and scrutiny about the royal family. Equality Minister Irene Montero was among the politicians who criticised the princesses after the revelation was first reported by online news website El Confidencial. “The vaccination of the princesses is more news which contributes to discrediting the monarchy. For the public, this constitutes preferential treatment and privileges,” the minister told the public TVE network.

File photograph of man receiving coronavirus vaccine in Abu Dhabi
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has given a jab to about 60% of its population

Labour Minister Yolanda Diaz described the matter as as “very unpleasant, very ugly”. “We, the people who exercise some sort of representation, must lead by example,” she added. A royal palace source declined to comment on the reports to Reuters on the basis that the sisters are not formally part of the institution but said the king, Queen Letizia and their daughters would get the vaccination when it was their turn. Spain has only administered about 4m vaccines so far, with over-80s and essential workers currently being prioritised. A similar scandal rocked the country in January, when some senior figures including the country’s top military chief resigned after they were implicated in “queue-jumping” allegations of their own.

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