Berlin (dpa) – It seemed to some to be a blemish, even though experts repeatedly argued against it: the Astrazeneca corona vaccine was not initially recommended for people aged 65 and over in Germany, so for the particularly vulnerable groups.
Now, the Standing Vaccination Commission (Stiko) updated its assessment at the time to reflect new findings from studies. She is paving the way for Astrazenca vaccinations for people 65 and older.
The committee of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) announced in advance on Thursday that it would recommend vaccination with the vaccine for all age groups, in accordance with the approval, despite an advisory procedure that is still needed. That was decided on Wednesday. This does not change the situation where there are currently no approved corona vaccines for children and adolescents.
REASONS FOR TAKING THE STEP: The original recommendation to give the vaccine only to people between the ages of 18 and 64 was due to a lack of research data on its effects in the elderly. Stiko chairman Thomas Mertens recently announced a review – stressing that he never criticized the vaccine itself. It was always about the initially thin data.
Stiko stated that it had now analyzed and reviewed new data. Its effectiveness has been impressively demonstrated: in the prevention of diseases and especially in the prevention of heavy courses. The findings come from England and Scotland, where the preparation is widely used.
The updated vaccination advice was initially not available on Thursday. The committee justified the preliminary statement with the extraordinary situation and the great need for information from the population. The Federal Ministry of Health had previously announced the move.
OTHER WAITING DATES: Germany was not the only EU country to initially have an age limit for deployment. For example, the French government has only extended usage on Mondays to those aged 65 to 75 with pre-existing conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure. The Austrian capital Vienna announced on Wednesday that from now on people over 65 will also be vaccinated with the vaccine. And the Swedish health authority, like the Stiko, announced on Thursday that the application is now being extended to everyone over 18 and will no longer be limited to those under 65.
SAFETY IN THE ELDERLY: In principle, experts rate all approved active ingredients as safe. Vaccinated people may experience flu-like symptoms for a day or two, which, according to the Paul Ehrlich Institute (PEI), usually “reflect the body’s normal immune response to the vaccination.” Such reactions are more common with the Astrazeneca preparation after the first of the two vaccinations. With the mRNA preparations from Biontech / Pfizer and Moderna, this is more likely to be the case after the second dose.
According to the PEI, about half of people develop fatigue, headaches, injection site pain, and muscle aches. More than 30 percent have chills and fever, and joint pain and nausea are less common. In general, such side effects are therefore lower in older people than in younger people.
PROTECTION: With reference to previous studies, the German Immunology Association emphasizes that the vaccine – like the other two preparations – almost completely prevents serious Covid-19 diseases. The vaccination protects against symptomatic Covid 19 disease with approximately 80 percent effectiveness. With the other two vaccines, this effectiveness is slightly higher, at more than 90 percent. According to experts, so far there have been no studies directly comparing the three vaccines.
THE VACCINE: The AZD1222 vaccine was developed by the Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical company Astrazeneca in collaboration with the University of Oxford. Unlike Biontech / Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, it can be stored at normal refrigerator temperature. It is also cheaper.
Unlike the other two vaccines, the Astrazeneca preparation is not an mRNA vaccine. It is based on the attenuated version of a chimpanzee cold virus and contains genetic material from a surface protein that targets the pathogen Sars-CoV-2 on human cells. With the help of these building instructions, the cells make this protein and the body develops an immune response.
THE DEBATE: Several experts from science and medicine recently complained that Astrazeneca had an image problem in Germany – the drug was effective, safe and protects against serious diseases. The media previously reported on missed vaccination appointments and side effects were also discussed. However, experts stressed that the bumpy start was also linked to planning and logistical issues.
RESPONSES: Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) spoke of good news for all elderly people awaiting vaccination. “You can be vaccinated faster.” The new research data also showed that the vaccine is even more effective if the interval between the first and second vaccination is twelve weeks. The Stiko strongly recommends this too. The recommendations would now be implemented “very quickly” in the vaccination regulation. Leif Sander, the vaccine expert at the Charité in Berlin, tweeted: “That’s good! Then you can really start now. “