Sat | Sep 25, 2021

Germany OKs AstraZeneca shot for 65 and over

Published:Thursday | March 4, 2021 | 9:16 AM
A package of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is shown in the state of Brandenburg where the first coronavirus vaccinations are given in doctors' surgeries, in Senftenberg, Germany, Wednesday, March 3, 2021. (Hannibal Hanschke/Pool via AP)

BERLIN — Germany’s health minister says the country’s independent vaccine committee has formally approved giving the AstraZeneca shot to people age 65 and over.

Minister Jens Spahn says the decision was “good news for older people who are waiting for a vaccination. They will get vaccinated faster.”

The vaccine made by British-Swedish company AstraZeneca is one of three authorised for use in the 27-nation European Union.

But several countries, including Germany, initially restricted it to people under 65, or in some cases under 55, citing a lack of data on its effectiveness in older people.

But the publication of new data on its effectiveness and pressure to speed up the EU’s slow vaccine rollout has prompted authorities across the bloc to revise their stances.

The independent committee, known by its German acronym StiKo, advised waiting 12 weeks between administering the first and second AstraZeneca shots, as studies show this increases the vaccine’s effectiveness, Spahn said.

Britain, which has had a notably successful vaccination rollout, has been going with the 12-week spacing for vaccine shots since last year.

Spahn said both recommendations will be swiftly incorporated in Germany’s vaccine rules, which the government announced late Wednesday would be overhauled to get vaccine shots to more people sooner.

Restrictive rules and a rush of deliveries have left Germany sitting on a stockpile of more than two million AstraZeneca doses even as many who want the vaccine can’t get the shots.

Data published this week from England’s mass vaccination program showed that both the AstraZeneca and the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines were around 60% effective in preventing symptomatic COVID-19 in people over 70 after just a single dose.

The analysis released by Public Health England, which hasn’t been peer-reviewed yet, also showed that both vaccines were about 80% effective in preventing hospitalisations among people over 80.

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