Germany to restrict Oxford vaccine to under-65s

Justin Huggler
·2 min read
Mandatory Credit: Photo by MONIRUL ALAM/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock (11729277g) A health worker prepares to administer a Oxford-AstraZeneca developed vaccine produced by the Serum Institute of India (SII) during the 2nd day of vaccination campaign at the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) in Dhaka, 28 January, 2021. According to the Bangladesh Health authority, the vaccination program for Covid-19 on trial has begun at five government hospitals across the Dhaka city. Bangladesh begins Covid-19 vaccination drive at five government hospitals in Dhaka - 28 Jan 2021 - MONIRUL ALAM/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Mandatory Credit: Photo by MONIRUL ALAM/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock (11729277g) A health worker prepares to administer a Oxford-AstraZeneca developed vaccine produced by the Serum Institute of India (SII) during the 2nd day of vaccination campaign at the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) in Dhaka, 28 January, 2021. According to the Bangladesh Health authority, the vaccination program for Covid-19 on trial has begun at five government hospitals across the Dhaka city. Bangladesh begins Covid-19 vaccination drive at five government hospitals in Dhaka - 28 Jan 2021 - MONIRUL ALAM/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Germany is set to block the use of the Oxford coronavirus vaccine in people aged over 65 over fears it may not be effective in older age groups.

The vaccine is expected to be approved for use in the European Union on Friday, but a draft recommendation from Germany’s vaccine authorities issued on Thursday called for its use to be restricted to those aged between 18 and 64.

“There is currently insufficient data to assess the effectiveness of the vaccine from 65 years of age,” the Standing Vaccine Commission (Stiko) at the Robert Koch Institute, Germany’s main centre for disease control, said.

The move comes with the European Union locked in an increasingly fraught dispute with AstraZeneca, the makers of the Oxford vaccine, and there are bound to be accusations it is politically motivated.

But the German recommendation was issued by an independent panel of doctors and scientists, who released detailed figures to back their findings.

They did not conclude the vaccine is ineffective in older people, but only that clinical trials had simply not included enough test subjects aged over 65 to provide any reliable data.

Just 341 test subjects aged over 65 were given the vaccine in clinical trials, compared to 5,466 aged between 18 and 64, according to Stiko figures. A second control group who were not given the vaccine included only 319 people over 65, compared to 5,510 aged between 18 and 64.

“It’s that we have today a limited amount of data in the older population,” Pascal Soriot, the chief executive of AstraZeneca, conceded in an interview with Italy’s La Repubblica newspaper earlier this week.

“Oxford is an academy group. They’re very ethical and very academic. So they didn’t want to vaccinate older people until they had accumulated a lot of safety data in the 18 to 55 group... But we have strong data showing very strong antibody production against the virus in the elderly, similar to what we see in younger people. It’s possible that some countries, out of caution, will use our vaccine for the younger group.”

The wording of the German recommendation suggested the EU’s European Medicines Agency (EMA) is likely to approve the vaccine for all adults on Friday, and leave individual member states to make their own decisions whether to use it for older people.