Spain and Italy have moved to restrict the usage of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine to folks aged above 60, in shifts that can complicate the international locations’ 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 steering for who ought to take the vaccine, it famous that “up to now, many of the instances reported [of blood clots] have occurred in ladies beneath 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 might be ample to make up the lag within the EU’s vaccination programme.
The UK, which is properly forward of the EU within the vaccine rollout, itself abruptly changed its guidance over the AstraZeneca vaccine on Wednesday, recommending that individuals aged 18-29 be supplied different jabs. Sweden and Finland solely enable its use within the over-65s, whereas Denmark and Norway have suspended its use till not less than subsequent week.
Spain’s choice to make use of the AstraZeneca vaccine just for folks over 60 reverses the nation’s coverage of only a few 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, might make it extra difficult to succeed in its aim — introduced on Tuesday by Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez — of vaccinating 70 per cent of the inhabitants, 33m folks, by the tip of August.
At current, 6.4m Spaniards have obtained not less than one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine. Of these, barely greater than 2m have obtained the AstraZeneca jab, whose use had been accelerating in current weeks.
Carolina Darias, well being minister, mentioned the nation had not but determined whether or not to manage AstraZeneca or one other vaccine to folks beneath 60 who had already obtained a primary shot of the jab.
The Italian Ministry of Well being additionally issued new steering in a single day saying the AstraZeneca vaccine ought to be given “preferential use” in these aged 60 and above. The steering famous the chance of clots, whereas acknowledging that it was low, and including that the chance of extreme Covid-19 will increase with age.
Italian officers instructed 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 accessible.
Rome’s new pointers clarified that those that have already obtained 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 unintended effects.
The Anglo-Swedish drugmaker mentioned it was working with international authorities to raised perceive the mechanism of motion of the facet impact. The EMA has ordered additional research into the matter, to be performed 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.