Monday, October 25

Germany backs down and approves the AstraZeneca vaccine also for people over 65 | Society

A healthcare worker loads a syringe with the AstraZeneca vaccine at the hospital in Halle, eastern Germany, last February.
A healthcare worker loads a syringe with the AstraZeneca vaccine at the hospital in Halle, eastern Germany, last February.JENS SCHLUETER / AFP

The committee that advises the German government on vaccination, known by its acronym Stiko, has approved that the AstraZeneca vaccine also be administered to people over 65 years of age. It thus changes its initial recommendation, of January 28, in which it assured that the preparation was safe but that there was still not enough efficacy data in older people. Germany became the first European country to recommend it only for the 18 to 65 age group, which contributed to a reputational problem throughout the European Union. In Germany, the bad press of the vaccine from the Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical company has caused many essential workers – for whom it was destined because it could not be used in people over 80 years of age, the priority ones – to refuse to receive it and cancel appointments at vaccination centers . This problem, added to other mismanagement of the vaccination campaign, has meant that three out of every four doses received remain unadministered.

Actually Stiko has not yet made the official recommendation to the Government. This Thursday the committee announced in a press release that “given the extraordinary situation and the great and understandable need for information of the population” has decided to communicate that it has already made the decision. Last Saturday its president, virologist Thomas Mertens, advanced in a television interview that Stiko was going to change his mind in view of the new efficacy data in elderly that have come from Scotland and England. And on Tuesday it was the Minister of Health, Jens Spahn, who spoke of vaccinating the elderly with AstraZeneca as well. In recent days, criticism has raged for the infuriating slowness of vaccination in Germany. There are federal states that do not vaccinate on Sunday. In the case of this vaccine, it is not a problem of shortage – there are almost a million and a half doses without injection – but of rejection of its administration or poor planning. Some regional leaders, such as Bavarian President Markus Söder, have called for changing the prioritization strategy to advance immunization of other groups.

“This is good news for all older people who are waiting for a vaccine. They will be able to get vaccinated earlier, ”said Spahn on his Twitter account. The minister also referred to the new vaccination guideline that the Stiko (Permanent Vaccination Commission) has recommended to implement. Just like the UK does, between the first and second dose it will take 12 weeks, because it has proven to be more effective this way when tested in real life. “We will implement both recommendations in regulation very soon,” Spahn said. The vaccine committee has also established that people who have already passed the infection must allow at least six months to pass before being vaccinated.

The committee’s decision “is based on intensive analysis and evaluation of the new data, which has not been available as advance publication. [lo que se conoce como preprints, en inglés, trabajos aún no revisados por pares ni publicados en revistas científicas] until a few days ago ”, says Stiko’s statement. The data from the “wide use” of the vaccine in England and Scotland provide “for the first time robust results on the efficacy of the vaccine in older age groups after a single dose of vaccine,” he adds, calling it “impressive. ”The data on the prevention of the severe course of the disease. The Stiko assures that on January 28 it made its recommendation “correctly” by virtue of the information that was then available.

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