German states make AstraZeneca doses available to all so stocks aren't 'lying around'

Public confidence in the AstraZeneca vaccine dropped after blood clot controversy

An AstraZeneca dose is handed out at a doctor's surgery in Berlin. Reuters
An AstraZeneca dose is handed out at a doctor's surgery in Berlin. Reuters

Three German states are offering AstraZeneca vaccines to their entire populations, allowing people to get a shot immediately regardless of age, as officials try to prevent doses going to waste.

Germany has received nearly six million AstraZeneca doses, but about one million have not been used.

Public confidence in the vaccine dropped in the wake of a Europe-wide back-and-forth over blood clots, which regulators say are a very rare side-effect that should not halt the use of the vaccine.

The states of Bavaria, Saxony and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern are abolishing all age prioritisation for AstraZeneca vaccines so that any willing recipient can have the shot.

This includes under-60s, who last month were told that the vaccine would only be recommended for older people in Germany.

The new measure is an “offer to people who don’t have any reservations about this vaccine and can take the opportunity to be vaccinated against the coronavirus,” said Harry Glawe, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern’s health minister.

“The aim is also that no vaccine should be left lying around and that we should make more progress in vaccinating the whole population,” he said.

Younger people in the three states will still be required to consult with their doctor before taking the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Doctors “know their patients well” and can make decisions on whether somebody under 60 should get the shot, said Bavaria’s health minister Klaus Holetschek.

“Vaccines have to be used up as quickly as possible,” he said. “Every vaccination counts.”

EU regulators say the vaccine is effective and that the benefits of preventing Covid-19 outweigh the very small risk of a blood clot.

However, in the wake of the blood clot controversy, a YouGov poll showed that 55 per cent of Germans thought the AstraZeneca vaccine was unsafe.

Like several other European countries, Germany briefly suspended the use of the vaccine altogether when reports of blood clots emerged.

By contrast, public confidence in the vaccine has been much higher in Britain where the AstraZeneca shot has never been suspended.

Germany ramps up vaccinations amid third wave of Covid-19

As German authorities try to increase uptake, German Chancellor Angela Merkel last week received her own first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Germany's vaccine pace improved markedly after family doctors started handing out doses earlier this month.

More than 20 per cent of Germany’s 83 million population now has received one dose of protection against Covid-19, with 6.8 per cent receiving a second dose.

But most of the population is still unprotected as a third wave of the disease continues to spread across Germany.

The German parliament backed a law change on Wednesday giving Ms Merkel's government more power to impose restrictions over the heads of reluctant state governments.

The amended law allows for nationwide curbs including school closures and night curfews.

Dubbed the "emergency brake", it prescribes tough measures in areas with infection rates of more than 100 new cases per 100,000 people in the last seven days.

Only one state had an incidence rate below 100 on Wednesday, while seven topped the threshold of 165 that will force schools to revert to remote learning.

Around 8,000 protesters gathered in the German capital as the amendment was debated in the Bundestag in Berlin.

Police said about 150 people were detained for throwing bottles, attacking officers and failing to comply with virus restrictions.

More on Covid-19 vaccinations

Vaccines are working: UK deaths and hospital cases in steep decline

Biden will send vaccines abroad when US has enough supply

Irish hotel quarantine exemption limited to four vaccines

Updated: April 22, 2021 02:47 PM

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