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Germany and France to give AstraZeneca vaccine to over 65s, Belgium approves it for over 55s

Ireland is currently only using this vaccine for people aged 18-69.

Image: PA

A NUMBER OF European countries have this week decided to begin using the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine for older people.

Belgium has said it will administer the vaccine to those over the age of 55, while France and Germany will allow it to be given to those over 65.

These countries had previously said there was insufficient data on the vaccine’s efficacy in older age cohorts. Ireland is currently only using this vaccine for people aged 18-69.

But both Chancellor Angela Merkel and the Belgian health minister Frank Vandenbroucke said recent studies had now provided that data, leading to their respective policy changes.

“The (German) vaccine commission, whose recommendations we are happy to follow, will authorise AstraZeneca for older age groups,” Merkel told reporters yesterday after talks with regional leaders about the next steps in fighting the pandemic.

Today the country’s independent vaccine committee formally approved giving the AstraZeneca vaccine to people aged 65 and over. The independent committee, known by its German acronym StiKo, also advised waiting 12 weeks between administering the first and second AstraZeneca jabs.

The German government had been criticised in recent weeks for muddled communications about the jab, leading to a public perception that the AstraZeneca vaccine was less effective than those developed by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna.

Priority list

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 rollout.

German politicians have also in recent days urged the government to relax its vaccination priority list to open up the AstraZeneca jab to more people.

Belgium, also criticised for the speed of its rollout, said yesterday it would now administer the AstraZeneca vaccine to those over the age of 55, “starting immediately”.

Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke said recent studies in Britain and Israel had shown the shot did give that age group protection against Covid-19.

Belgium, a country of 11.5 million, has reserved 7.7 million doses of the AstraZeneca jab, the largest order it has made of any of the available Covid-19 vaccines.

With the inoculation of over-65s due to begin next week, there had been warnings that relying only on the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines would derail the process.

France, which had also limited the AstraZeneca jab to younger age groups, said earlier this week that it too would allow the vaccine to be given to over-65s.

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- © AFP 2021 with reporting by Michelle Hennessy and PA.

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