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COVID-19: Germany U-turns on Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and recommends it for over-65s

Written by on 4 March 2021

German health officials have U-turned on the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and recommended it is safe for use on over-65s.

The German health ministry said on Thursday that its independent vaccine committee has now formally approved the COVID-19 jab for use in that age group.

It comes after disproved claims in Europe that the jab was as little as 8% effective among the elderly.

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The AstraZeneca vaccine has successfully been delivered to Ghana Image: Several EU countries have restricted use of the AstraZeneca jab on the elderly

German health officials have also said that delaying the second dose of the Oxford jab by 12 weeks – as the UK is doing – increases its efficacy.

Health minister Jens Spahn said the change in position is “good news for older people who are waiting for a vaccination”, adding: “They will get vaccinated faster.”

Germany had previously claimed that there was not enough reliable efficacy data to allow the AstraZeneca jab to be used on the over-65s.

Other European countries, including Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden, followed, with French President Emmanuel Macron claiming it was “quasi-ineffective” on pensioners.

But this week, France U-turned on its decision and approved it for use on people aged between 65 and 74 with underlying health conditions.

Mr Macron said he would accept the vaccine himself and urged his German counterpart Angela Merkel to do the same.

There has been widespread criticism of the comparatively slow rollout of coronavirus vaccines within the EU, with many saying the bloc failed to secure adequate supplies.

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Original claims by a German newspaper that the Oxford jab was less than 10% effective on the elderly have also been widely disproven.

Researchers in Bristol this week found that the AstraZeneca vaccine is 80.4% effective in preventing the over-80s being hospitalised with the virus.

Other studies have also suggested it is just as effective against the Kent variant in preventing severe disease.

EU President Ursula von der Leyen claimed the UK had compromised on safety by fast-tracking its authorisation, despite the EU regulator reaching the same conclusions on it as the UK’s MHRA.

But with mounting research to the contrary, she appears to have changed position in recent weeks, telling German newspaper Augsburger Allgemeine: “I would take the AstraZeneca vaccine without a second thought, just like Moderna’s and BioNTech-Pfizer’s products.”

The EU currently has three COVID vaccines approved for use: Oxford-AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.