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VACCINE

Germany to continue restricting AstraZeneca use in under 60s despite EMA ruling

Germany's vaccine committee is standing by its recommendation to restrict the use of the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine in the under 60s, despite the European Medicines Agency calling for it to be used in all age groups.

Germany to continue restricting AstraZeneca use in under 60s despite EMA ruling
Different vaccines in Quedlinburg, Saxony-Anhalt. Photo: DPA

Germany’s Standing Commission on Vaccination (STIKO) also recommends that people under 60 who have already received one shot of AstraZeneca should get a second dose of another vaccine.

The EMA came to the conclusion on Wednesday that the unusual blood clots suffered by numerous people around Europe should be considered as rare side effects of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine, but that overall the benefits of the jab outweigh the risk.

They advised that the vaccine – developed with Oxford University – should continue to be used for all age groups but that people should be told of the possible rare side effects.

READ ALSO: ‘Possible link’ between AstraZeneca vaccine and rare blood clots, concludes EMA

However, Germany’s vaccine committee recommended last week that the jab not be used in under 60s due to a small number of people developing a rare and potentially fatal condition called cerebral sinus venous thrombosis (CSVT) – a type of blood clot in the brain – after getting the AstraZeneca vaccine.

The German government swiftly ordered that the use of AstraZeneca be stopped in people under the age of 60, but said that individuals can still decide to take the vaccine only after a consultation with the doctor carrying out the jab.

German infectious disease immunologist Christian Bogdan, a member of STIKO, told an online science briefing on Wednesday that the EMA’s decision was justified, but what STIKO decided “can certainly be justified in the same way”.

During the briefing organised by the Science Media Center, health experts said more research was needed to discover what may predispose people to clots with low blood platelet counts.

In Germany, there have been 31 suspected cases of CVST – 19 accompanied by a drop in blood platelets – with nine deaths, according to the Paul-Ehrlich Institute.

These cases were spread across 2.8 million AstraZeneca vaccine doses injected.

STIKO said the occurrence of CVST was therefore found in one to two out of 100 000 vaccinated younger women in Germany. There have also been a few cases in men in Germany – but 2.5 times more women nationwide have been vaccinated with an AstraZeneca dose so far.

You can read in-depth articles about the decision here:

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Bogdan said, however, that the EMA decision would be discussed at the next committee meeting.

The German government has followed STIKO’s recommendations throughout the vaccine rollout.

What happens to people under 60 who have received one AstraZeneca dose in Germany?

The German committee recommended at the end of last week that people under 60 who had received one AstraZeneca shot should get a second dose of another vaccine.

They recommend administering an mRNA vaccine as the second dose. In Germany, the mRNA vaccines from BioNTech/Pfizer and Moderna are both approved.

Health Minister Jens Spahn has been discussing this topic with state health ministers and will soon release more information.

The chairman of STIKO, Thomas Mertens, told the Rheinische Post on Thursday that “protection against Covid-19 decreases after a certain time with a single AstraZeneca shot”.

He said a second dose from another vaccine could lead to an even higher protective effect from the disease.

However, high profile German virologist Hendrik Streeck said he was surprised at the committee’s recommendation to offer people in Germany a second dose with BioNTech or Moderna after AstraZeneca because of a lack of research. 

“The clinical studies have not yet been carried out. I think it is necessary to stick to the rules and wait to see if the studies are successful,” he told the newspaper Fuldaer Zeitung.

But he said it was an “understandable” decision to restrict the use of AstraZeneca in people under 60 – even if the vaccine itself was effective and safe.

Member comments

  1. I’ll happily take any cleared vaccine, but I’m 65 & healthy & cannot do my work which involves travel to other countries on a Day to Day basis until I get vaccinated, & it sometimes feels like everyone else is in line to get the jab before me. What is the situation regarding what set of people are to get the jab, & how do you get an appointment? This seems the the hardest thing to find out right now!

    1. Talk to a GP that has signed up to the vaccination program. I did and got my first jab that very same afternoon. I probably stuck it very lucky but if you talk to them they will probably add you to their vaccination list.

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VACCINE

‘This can be a good summer’: Half of Germans vaccinated at least once against Covid

One in two Germans have received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine, health authorities said Friday, before warning against complacency as the Delta variant is expected to become the dominant strain.

'This can be a good summer': Half of Germans vaccinated at least once against Covid
Jens Spahn. Photo: DPA/Carsten Koall

Some 50.1 percent of the total German population, or 41.66 million people, have now been vaccinated at least once against the coronavirus, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) said on Friday.

At the same time 29.6 percent of the population now has full protection – that’s just under 25 million people.

“This can be a good summer,” said Health Minister Jens Spahn on Friday, before saying that the country needed to remain vigilant due to the spread of the Delta variant.

RKI President Lothar Wieler meanwhile warned that the numbers also showed that millions of people were still completely unprotected or only partially protected.

In order to largely dispense with the pandemic measures, the German government wants to hit 80 percent immunity – either through complete vaccination or an infection plus vaccination. 

The Delta variant, first identified in India, doubled to just over 6 percent of all new infections in Germany during the week ending June 6th in comparison with the previous seven days.

“By the autumn, it will be the dominant strain,” said Wieler.

It was “biologically logical” for the strain to become dominant simply because it was more infectious, he said.

Germany has eased most restrictions, reopening restaurants, shops, pools and museums in recent weeks as new infections dip sharply.

On Friday, it recorded 1,076 new cases, while the number of new cases over a seven day period continued to drop to 10 per 100,000 people.

Wieler said however that it was necessary to keep wearing masks indoors, such as on public transport or at offices.

“We have achieved really good results but the virus is still active and please let us give this virus no chance,” he urged.

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