The AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine should only be routinely given to people over the age of 60, Germany’s federal and state health ministers have decided.
German Health Minister Jens Spahn and the 16 state health ministers on Tuesday decided to suspend the routine use of the AstraZeneca vaccine for people under age 60 at an emergency meeting.
Authorities in the cities of Berlin and Munich had earlier decided to limit the use of the vaccine.
People under 60 can still receive the shot, but only “at the discretion of doctors, and after individual risk analysis and thorough explanation,” according to a document seen by the DPA news agency.
Why was the decision made?
The decision came amid fresh concern over unusual blood clots reported in a tiny number of younger people who received the vaccine.
“The positive message is that the vaccine from AstraZeneca should continue to be vaccinated for people who have reached the age of 60,” said the chairman of the health ministers’ conference, Bavaria’s Health Minister Klaus Holetschek.
“The studies continue to show that this is a vaccine that is effective against severe bouts of the disease. We need it to be effective in the face of the third wave and dangerous viral mutations, we need it to move forward quickly,” Holetschek said.
Germany’s permanent vaccine commission, known by the short name STIKO, earlier on Tuesday published new guidelines recommending that the AstraZeneca vaccine be issued only to those over 60.
It said it had made the decision “on the basis of currently available data on the occurrence of rare, but very serious thrombosis-related side-effects.” The commission said that it would issue guidelines on what to do for adults under 60 who had received a first AstraZeneca shot and were due another by the end of April.
Acting on the STIKO advice, authorities in Berlin and Munich earlier temporarily halted AstraZeneca vaccine usage on people under the age of 60.
How did German leaders respond?
German Chancellor Angela Merkel defended the new age limitations. “Trust comes from the knowledge that every suspicion, every single case will be looked into,” she said after a consultation with Germany’s state premiers.
She added that she would also be willing to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine “when it is my turn.” The chancellor is 66 years old.