Germany approves AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine for citizens over 65 years of age
The country had previously cited lack of sufficient data to greenlight the vaccine for older people
Berlin: Germany's vaccine commission on Thursday approved the AstraZeneca/Oxford COVID-19 vaccine for people over 65 following the publication of new data from the UK.
"The vaccine commission now recommends the AstraZeneca vaccine for people over 65 as well. This is good news for older people who are waiting for a jab," said Health Minister Jens Spahn.
Germany had previously said it lacked sufficient data to greenlight the vaccine for older people.
But in an online statement, the vaccine commission said it had now revised its decision based on new data from England and Scotland, where the vaccine is already being rolled out among older people.
"The data, which have only been available for a few days... provide the first robust results showing effectiveness in older people after one dose," the statement said.
It added that the studies had shown the vaccine to be effective in preventing the most serious cases of the COVID-19 disease.
The commission recommended that the first and second AstraZeneca jabs should be administered 12 weeks apart where possible, while people who had already been infected should receive one jab at least six months after diagnosis.
Health Minister Spahn said that Germany's vaccine law would soon be changed to reflect the new recommendations.
Thursday's announcement came after Chancellor Angela Merkel said Wednesday that the commission would be changing its position on the AstraZeneca jab.
The German government had been criticised in recent weeks for muddled communications about the AstraZeneca jab, leading to a public perception that the vaccine was less effective than those developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.
Some of the Germans first in line for a COVID-19 jab have spurned the AstraZeneca offer, leaving the country with hundreds of thousands of unopened doses.
Greenlighting the jab for the oldest age groups is expected to help Germany work through the backlog and pick up the pace of its sluggish vaccine rollout.
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Skittishness over the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, analysts fear, could stoke demand for Russian- and Chinese-made shots, about which far less is known