Germany’s vaccine committee has said that the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine should only be administered to people aged under 65
The committee has cited “insufficient data” over the efficacy of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine for older people. The European Medicines Agency is set to decide on Friday whether or not to approve the vaccine for use throughout the European Union.
The UK has already been administering the AstraZeneca vaccine across the nation in its mass vaccination programme for weeks now, with public health officials saying that it is safe and works to provide “high levels of protection”.
This comes after a Tory MP who has urged anti-vaccination campaigners to keep going with their fight against COVID-19 restrictions, telling them that NHS capacity figures are being “manipulated” is “wrong” and “completely out of order”, senior minister Michael Gove has said.
The announcement from Germany comes as the EU is in dispute with the leading vaccine manufacturers over a shortage of vaccines on the European continent.
The UK-based pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca, has said that production issues at its Europe-based plants mean that it will be unable to deliver the promised number of doses to the bloc.
But the EU says the firm must honour its commitments and deliver the jabs by diverting stock from the UK. It is calling for “robust action” to secure the supply.
Pfizer-BioNTech has also cut the number of doses it is delivering to the 27-member bloc.
The independent vaccine commission advising the German government said on Thursday that there were “currently insufficient data available to assess the vaccine efficacy from 65 years of age” and recommended “the AstraZeneca vaccine… should only be offered to people aged 18-64 years at each stage”.
But Dr Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisations at Public Health England, said both the AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines are “safe and provide high levels of protection against Covid-19, particularly against severe disease.
“There were too few cases in older people in the AstraZeneca trials to observe precise levels of protection in this group, but data on immune responses were very reassuring.”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that he was not worried by this new recommendation from Germany.
This comes after the Prime Minister is heading up to Scotland on a one-day trip aimed at highlighting the value of the United Kingdom in working together to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. Mr Johnson’s controversial visit is part of a Conservative fightback against polls suggesting that there is growing support for Scottish independence, as well as support for Ms Sturgeon’s threat to hold an advisory referendum.
“Our own authorities have made it very clear that they think the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is very good and efficacious, gives a high degree of protection after just one dose (…) and the evidence that they’ve supplied is that they think it is effective across all age groups,” he said.
Meanwhile, professor of Medicine at the University of East Anglia, Paul Hunter, told BBC News that the elderly population should not worry about receiving the vaccine: “We do know that it is safe in people over 65. They have much fewer side effects than younger people and it almost certainly provides substantial benefits in terms of preventing severe disease and reduce the chances of going into hospital.”