Germany U-turns and formally approves AstraZeneca vaccine for over-65s

4 March 2021, 14:17

The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine has been approved for over-65s in Germany
The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine has been approved for over-65s in Germany. Picture: PA

By Patrick Grafton-Green

German health authorities have U-turned and formally approved giving the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine to over-65s.

The country was among several to initially restrict use of the jab to people under 65, or in some cases under 55, citing a lack of data on its effectiveness in older people.

However, publication of further data and pressure to speed up its slow vaccine rollout has prompted Germany’s independent vaccine committee to revise its guidance.

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Health Minister Jens Spahn said the decision was "good news for older people who are waiting for a vaccination. They will get vaccinated faster".

The vaccine is one of three authorised for use in the 27-nation European Union.

The German vaccine committee, known as StiKo, also advised waiting 12 weeks between administering the first and second AstraZeneca jabs, as studies show this increases the vaccine's effectiveness, Mr Spahn said.

He added both recommendations would be swiftly incorporated into Germany's vaccine rules, which the government announced late on Wednesday would be overhauled to allow more people to get the jabs sooner.

Restrictive rules and a rush of deliveries mean Germany is sitting on a stockpile of more than two million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine even as many who want it cannot get the shots.

France, Belgium and Italy loosened their age restrictions for the jab earlier this week as they scramble to confront a looming third spike in Covid-19 cases driven by more contagious virus variants.

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

The analysis, released by Public Health England and which has not yet been peer reviewed, also showed both vaccines were about 80% effective in preventing hospitalisations among people over 80.