Germany mulls vaccinating thousands of officials with AstraZeneca: Spiegel

FILE PHOTO: AstraZeneca's logo is reflected in a drop on a syringe needle in this illustration
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BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany is considering deploying the armed forces to give thousands of government officials the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine, Der Spiegel reported, after many essential workers refused the British-Swedish shot.

The news weekly reported on Monday that junior health minister Thomas Steffen had written to Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer asking her to make available personnel to carry out the mass vaccination programme.

The defence ministry declined to comment on the report. The health ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Vaccination efforts in Germany have faced widespread reluctance to take the AstraZeneca vaccine after clinical trials showed it to be less effective than an alternative shot from Pfizer vaccine, developed by Germany's BioNTech, that accounts for most doses administered so far in the country.

Health Minister Jens Spahn said on public television that he would be happy to take the AstraZeneca vaccine, a gesture seen as an attempt to strengthen public confidence in it.

A programme to vaccinate all government and ministry officials in "system-relevant" jobs would carry the same message, and could potentially ensure that vaccine doses declined by the public do not go to waste.

The latest round of skittishness over the vaccine was triggered when Germany's medicines agency declined to approve AstraZeneca's product for use on the over-65s, citing a lack of trial evidence that it was effective on that age cohort.

To date, Germany has administered around six doses of vaccine per 100 residents, lagging nations like Britain and the United States that have rolled out more aggressive campaigns. The vaccines Germany is administering require two doses.

(Reporting by Thomas Escritt, Sabine Siebold and Joseph Nasr; Editing by Douglas Busvine and Mark Heinrich)