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Jab latest German expert panel recommends against giving AstraZeneca vaccine to over 65s

AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine should only be given to people aged between 18 and 64, Germany's vaccine committee has said

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FILE PHOTO: REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

FILE PHOTO: REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

FILE PHOTO: REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine should only be given to people aged between 18 and 64, Germany's vaccine committee said in a draft update to its vaccine recommendation, a day ahead of a decision by European regulators on the drugmaker's shot.

"There are currently insufficient data available to assess the vaccine efficacy from 65 years of age," the committee said in a draft resolution made available by the German health ministry on Thursday.

"The AstraZeneca vaccine, unlike the mRNA vaccines, should only be offered to people aged 18-64 years at each stage."

The European Medicines Agency is expected to make a decision on whether to approve AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine on Friday.

AstraZeneca denied on Monday that its Covid-19 vaccine is not very effective for people over 65, after German media reports said officials fear the vaccine may not be approved in the European Union for use in the elderly.

The German health ministry said of the 341 people vaccinated in the group aged 65 and over, only one became infected with the coronavirus, meaning the STIKO had not been able to derive a statistically significant statement.

AstraZeneca Chief Executive Pascal Soriot said the company had less data than other drugmakers on the elderly because it started vaccinating older people later.

"But we have strong data showing very strong antibody production against the virus in the elderly, similar to what we see in younger people," he told Die Welt newspaper in an interview earlier this week.

British Prime Minster Boris Johnson hit back at the claims from Germany, as he argued the evidence shows it "provides a good immune response across all age groups".

The Prime Minister joined Public Health England (PHE) in defending the use of the jab after a draft recommendation from Germany’s vaccination advisory committee on Thursday said there was insufficient data to recommend it for those aged 65 and over.

Dr Mary Ramsay, the head of immunisations at PHE, acknowledged there had been "too few cases" of coronavirus in older people in Phase 3 clinical trials to determine the level of efficacy in this age group, but said other data on immune response had been "reassuring".

Mr Johnson, during a visit to Scotland, said he does not agree with the German ruling, as he backed the advice from the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

Asked if he is concerned about the verdict in Germany, the Prime Minister told reporters: "No, because I think the MHRA, 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 even more after two doses.

"And the evidence they’ve supplied is they think it’s effective across all age groups and provides a good immune response across all age groups.”

He added: "I don’t agree with that."

Oxford University, which partnered with AstraZeneca to develop the vaccine, has stressed that its jab offers high protection against severe disease and prevents people needing to go to hospital.

AstraZeneca said in a statement: "The latest analyses of clinical trial data for the AstraZeneca/Oxford Covid-19 vaccine support efficacy in the over 65 years age group.

"We await a regulatory decision on the vaccine by the EMA in the coming days."

Professor Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, pointed to the MHRA’s report, which said there were two cases of Covid-19 in the over-65s.

The MHRA said: "There is limited information available on efficacy in participants aged 65 or over, although there is nothing to suggest lack of protection."

A Phase 3 Lancet study published in December said older age groups had been recruited later into the study so "efficacy data in these cohorts are currently limited by the small number of cases, but additional data will be available in future analyses".

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Reuters


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