German states call for unused AstraZeneca vaccine to be given to younger people
FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Several federal states on Sunday called for unused AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccines to be given to younger people, as concerns about side effects and effectiveness, as well as a recommendation that should only be used for those under 65, meant low acceptance of the available Cans.
The German Ministry of Health announced this week it had administered only 15% of the available AstraZeneca shots, confirming concerns that Germans are being selective and slowing vaccination efforts.
Older people are first to vaccinate, but Germany has recommended that the AstraZeneca vaccine only be given to people aged 18 to 64 years. The EU regulators have declared it safe.
The Prime Ministers of Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria and Saxony told the German newspapers on Sunday that the prioritization scheme should be weakened if shots intended for older Germans are not used so that younger people can receive it earlier than originally planned.
"We can't afford to have the vaccine standing around and not being used because some of those entitled refuse it," said Baden-Württemberg's Prime Minister Winfried Kretschmann to Welt am Sonntag. The Bavarian Markus Soeder made remarks similar to Bild am Sonntag and the Saxon Michael Kretschmer to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung.
Health officials in some European countries - including Germany - are also facing resistance to the AstraZeneca vaccine after side effects such as fever and muscle pain caused some front-line workers to fall ill. The other European approved shots developed by Pfizer and Moderna have been linked to similar transient side effects.
The federal government on Friday urged the public to take the AstraZeneca vaccine, while Robert Koch Institute director Lothar Wieler said data from the UK and Israel showed it was "very, very effective".
The recommendation that the vaccine should only be given to people under the age of 65 came from the German expert committee for the use of vaccines (STIKO). The head of STIKO, Thomas Mertens, said on Friday that he would update his recommendation very soon.
"Somehow the whole thing went somehow bad," he told the broadcaster ZDF.
(Reporting by Arno Schuetze; editing by Frances Kerry)
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