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Germany U-turns on Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine

Berlin rolling out UK-developed jab to over-65s after doubts about efficacy disproved

German health officials have paved the way for the rollout of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine to be extended to the country’s over-65s after drastically revising official guidance on the Covid jab. 

The Health Ministry’s independent vaccine committee reversed a recommendation not to use the UK-developed jab to inoculate older people following a review of data from other nations’ vaccine campaigns

As Sky News notes, Germany “had previously claimed that there was not enough reliable efficacy data” to allow the vaccine to be used on high-risk groups - a verdict that prompted other European countries including Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden to adopt similar policies.

The doubters’ fears appeared by be verified by German media reports that the efficacy of the Oxford jab was as low as 8% in recipients aged over 65. 

But that claim was swiftly rubbished - and in the wake of fresh research, now Berlin is U-turning to follow the UK’s lead in offering the Oxford jab for over-65s. Germany is also set to adopt the policy of delaying the second dose by 12 weeks - as the UK is doing - after studies found that widening the gap improves the efficacy of the vaccine. 

Health Minister Jens Spahn said the policy shift was “good news for older people” because “they will get vaccinated faster”.

The change in strategy comes days after France approved the Oxford jab for use on people aged 65 to 74 with underlying health conditions. French President Emmanuel Macron had previously claimed that the vaccine was only “quasi-ineffective” on pensioners. 

While officials in both Berlin and Paris have had a rethink, however, public trust in the vaccine remains low.

Vaccination centres in Berlin are reporting that patients due to have the jab are not turning up for appointments.

And figures released by the French Health Ministry reveal a similar trend. Euractiv reports that only 273,000 doses of the jab have been administered in France “out of 1.7 million received as of end-February”.

The head of the MG France doctors’ union, Jacques Battistoni, last week denounced the “AstraZeneca bashing”, while the country’s vaccination coordinator, Alain Fischer, said that the “bad press” about the vaccine was “deeply unfair”.

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