Coronavirus

AstraZeneca vaccine: will younger people be vaccinated earlier?

Health Minister Jens Spahn (r.) And RKI President Robert Wieler at the federal press conference.

picture alliance / dpa | Kay Nietfeld

Does the approval of AstraZeneca’s vaccine in Germany necessitate a new vaccination schedule? Quite possible. The European Medicines Agency EMA recommended on Friday that the vaccine should generally be approved for people over the age of 18. However, it is questionable whether people over 65 years of age are also vaccinated with it in Germany. Because the Standing Vaccination Commission (Stiko) had recommended not to use the vaccine for older people.

With the previous vaccination strategy, older people in particular should be vaccinated as quickly as possible, but now younger people could be the focus of vaccination. The first thing that could benefit from this is nurses and doctors. They already fall into the highest priority level according to the previous vaccination regulation. “Above all, hospital and nursing staff should be the first to benefit from the resources that are now free,” said SPD chairwoman Saskia Esken to the newspapers of the Funke group. FDP Vice-President Wolfgang Kubicki and the German Hospital Association made a similar statement. Your chief executive calculated that not even 100,000 employees in emergency rooms, infection departments and intensive care units have been vaccinated so far. It is they who often treat highly infectious patients.

It is also conceivable that those in need of care under 65 years of age or people with rare but dangerous pre-existing illnesses will have an earlier turn. They were sometimes not taken into account by the previous regulation, and some sued in order to receive the vaccine. Often with success.

Police officers and firefighters, including members of the German armed forces, teachers, educators and retail employees could also benefit earlier. According to the vaccination ordinance, they all have a higher priority. SPD leader Esken also suggested that alternative vaccines should be obtained immediately for those over 65. In addition, “the vaccination sequence for the Astrazeneca vaccine, which will arrive shortly, has to be re-coordinated,” said Esken.

AstraZeneca vaccine only tested on a few people over 65 years of age

Meanwhile, Klaus Cichutek, President of the Paul Ehrlich Institute, stressed in the federal press conference on Friday that he did not doubt the effectiveness of the AstraZeneca vaccine for people over 65 years of age. Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) agreed with him, but criticized the thin data situation of the AstraZeneca vaccine from the test procedure. The vaccine was only tested in 341 people aged 65 and over, while more than 5000 people between the ages of 18 and 65 were enrolled in the study. In the opinion of many experts, a sample that is far too small to fully assess the reliability of the vaccine in the elderly.

On Friday, however, Spahn warned not to rush anything with the rearrangement of the vaccination sequence: “We adhere to the sequence: first, the EMA has to decide on approval,” he said. Only then can Stiko make a definitive recommendation. Then, Spahn promised, they wanted to “quickly adjust” the vaccination regulations. He described the Stiko recommendation, which became known on Thursday, as a “draft”. Spahn was also confident that the highest priority group could be vaccinated in the first quarter of 2021.

How much of the AstraZeneca vaccine will arrive in Germany and when is still open. The company had annoyed the EU Commission by announcing that instead of the promised 80 million vaccine doses, it would only deliver 31 million in the first quarter. The reason given was production problems in a Belgian plant. The dispute escalated further when it became known that the UK would receive the originally promised delivery. In the meantime, AstraZeneca has signaled that the EU could now receive more vaccine after all. How much is not clear yet. At least for February, however, Spahn gave a specific number. He said he expected Germany to receive three million cans from AstraZeneca.

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