Spain and Italy have moved to restrict the usage of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine to individuals aged above 60, in shifts that may complicate the nations’ efforts to step up their vaccination programmes.
The choice by Madrid and Rome on Wednesday evening got here after the European Medicines Company mentioned earlier within the day that there was a hyperlink between very uncommon blood clots within the mind and the AstraZeneca jab.
Whereas the EMA, the EU’s prescribed drugs regulator, didn’t change its steerage for who ought to take the vaccine, it famous that “up to now, many of the instances reported [of blood clots] have occurred in girls below 60 years of age inside two weeks of vaccination”.
France and Germany had additionally beforehand restricted the usage of the jab for the over-55s and over-60s, respectively — trusting that different vaccines, akin to that from BioNTech/Pfizer and a brand new one-shot inoculation from Johnson & Johnson can be adequate to make up the lag within the EU’s vaccination programme.
The UK, which is effectively forward of the EU within the vaccine rollout, itself abruptly changed its guidance over the AstraZeneca vaccine on Wednesday, recommending that folks aged 18-29 be supplied various jabs. Sweden and Finland solely enable its use within the over-65s, whereas Denmark and Norway have suspended its use till no less than subsequent week.
Spain’s resolution to make use of the AstraZeneca vaccine just for individuals over 60 reverses the nation’s coverage of just some weeks in the past — till final month it banned the usage of the jab for these older than 55.
The brand new stance, which was endorsed by many of the nation’s areas, may make it extra difficult to succeed in its objective — introduced on Tuesday by Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez — of vaccinating 70 per cent of the inhabitants, 33m individuals, by the tip of August.
At current, 6.4m Spaniards have acquired no less than one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine. Of these, barely greater than 2m have acquired the AstraZeneca jab, whose use had been accelerating in latest weeks.
Carolina Darias, well being minister, mentioned the nation had not but determined whether or not to manage AstraZeneca or one other vaccine to individuals below 60 who had already acquired a primary shot of the jab.
The Italian Ministry of Well being additionally issued new steerage in a single day saying the AstraZeneca vaccine must be given “preferential use” in these aged 60 and above. The steerage famous the danger of clots, whereas acknowledging that it was low, and including that the danger of extreme Covid-19 will increase with age.
Italian officers advised a press convention on Wednesday evening that the risk-benefit ratio was nonetheless considerably slanted in direction of administering the vaccine. Italy had additionally initially restricted the usage of the vaccine to youthful sufferers, eradicating age limits as extra information turned obtainable.
Rome’s new tips clarified that those that have already acquired a dose of the AstraZeneca shot ought to full their vaccination with the identical jab, no matter age.
AstraZeneca on Wednesday acknowledged the findings from the EMA and the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare merchandise Regulatory Company, whereas noting that greater than 200m doses of the shot had been administered worldwide with a comparatively low variety of uncomfortable side effects.
The Anglo-Swedish drugmaker mentioned it was working with world authorities to higher perceive the mechanism of motion of the facet impact. The EMA has ordered additional research into the matter, to be carried out with the Utrecht College and the Erasmus college in Rotterdam.
Additionally on Wednesday, the World Well being Group mentioned the hyperlink was believable however that it had not been confirmed, and that the vaccine’s advantages outweighed its dangers.