German health advisers have announced that they could allow the elderly to receive the Oxford / AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, while EU governments are under increasing pressure to clean up stocks of unused doses.
Thomas Mertens, head of the German vaccination commission, told German television channel ZDF that there would be an “updated recommendation” “very soon” that would “adjust this point” – citing a decision to recommend jab for use below -65.
His comments come at a time of growing concern that the stock is a shot of AstraZenec they are piling up unused in Europe, amid widespread doubts about its effectiveness among the population of Germany, France and elsewhere.
As of Saturday, Germany had administered only 363,645 of the 1.45 million doses of the two-injection vaccine delivered – or just 25 percent. Regional health officials said thousands of people did not show up for the meetings after learning they would receive a shooting from AstraZeneca.
As of Saturday, France has applied 21 percent of the dose of 1.1 million stings it has received since its first delivery in early February, according to data from the health ministry. There have been reports of hesitation and side effects among healthcare professionals.
German officials said the key reason for the low intake of stings was the recommendation of the Standing Vaccination Commission not to use stings on people over 65 – a move stemming from a lack of a reliable date on its effectiveness for this age group.
In France, the vaccine was only given to people between the ages of 50 and 64 with concomitant diseases and health workers, while Spain advised not to use it for those over 55. Italy offers a kick to under 65s. In contrast, the European Medicines Agency, the EU regulator, has supported its use for all people over the age of 18.
“We have never criticized the vaccine. . . only that the data set for the age group over 65 was not good or was not adequate, ”Mertens said, adding that the commission’s position on the vaccine had improved“ in light of new data coming ”.
He cited a new study from Scotland, which has not yet been reviewed, showing that the AstraZeneca shot reduced the chance of hospitalization from four to six weeks after vaccination by 94 percent after one shot.
His comments echo the comments of French health officials, as well as Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, who have tried to restore public confidence in the vaccine in recent days. After saying the vaccine was “quasi-ineffective” in January, Macron said Friday he would take it if offered.
France’s Haute Autorité de Santé vaccine commission declined to give a time frame when it could revise its advice on the use of AstraZeneca, but said it was continuously evaluating new data, including a Scottish study. The French Minister of Health asked the commission to review the data and advise whether the current policy should be adjusted.
Meanwhile, a growing chorus of German politicians is urging Germany to ease its strict rules on who qualifies for vaccination. Winifred Kretschmann, prime minister of the large southwestern state of Baden-Württemberg, called for a review of vaccination priorities: “We cannot afford to keep the vaccine unused because some of those who are entitled to it refuse it,” he told the German newspaper Welt am Sonntag.
“We should relax this strict regime and vaccinate people, even if, according to the prioritization system, they are not necessarily in line,” he added.
A similar point was made by Michael Kretschmer, the Prime Minister of Saxony, in an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung. He said the current regime, which limits vaccines to high-priority groups, should be scrapped quickly with regard to AstraZeneca.
“The prioritization system was a means of managing the shortcoming [in the availability of vaccines], “he said.” Now we see that there is more to it than can be applied, at least in the short term. “
Separately, Germany announced on Sunday that it is tightening rules for people entering the country from the French region of Moselle, amid concerns over growing cases of more contagious coronavirus mutations, especially a variant that has emerged in South Africa.
Passengers entering Germany from Moselle will be required to show a negative Covid-19 test that is not older than 48 hours. Airlines, bus and train companies can no longer bring passengers from Moselle to Germany. German citizens and foreigners living in Germany will be exempt, as will trade in goods.
French Minister for Europe Clement Béaune said he “regrets” the German decision. “That includes slowing down the boundaries for working people,” he said. “We’re doing everything we can to keep work on both sides of the border.”