World Health Organization chief welcomes US announcement that it will support waivers for coronavirus vaccines.
Germany will allow AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine to be administered to adults of all ages and aims to offer 12-18-year-olds a vaccine by the end of August as it seeks to speed up its rollout, Health Minister Jens Spahn has said.
The country’s 16 regional health ministers have agreed with Spahn to reverse a previous decision to restrict the AstraZeneca shot to people aged more than 60 years. He also said the current 12-week gap between first and second doses of AstraZeneca vaccinations could be shortened.
“Both these measures serve to further to accelerate our vaccination campaign overall,” said Spahn on Thursday.
Initial supply shortages and bureaucratic hurdles meant Germany, which has Europe’s biggest economy, got off to a slow start with its inoculation strategy.
The move, already adopted in several German states, would be on a voluntary basis and family doctors would decide how best to administer the vaccine, Spahn said.
Millions of doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine have been safely administered in Europe, but concerns linger over a rare type of blood clot seen in an extremely small number of recipients, meaning that some people in early priority groups due to their age or pre-existing health conditions have been holding off on getting it, preferring to wait for another vaccine.
Dozens of countries paused the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine in March or restricted them to older adults. However, several of them have now resumed use either fully or with restrictions after health regulators said the benefits of the shot outweigh any risks.
Spahn also said Germany aimed to offer 12-18-year-olds a vaccine by the end of August, provided European regulators give approval for the BioNTech-Pfizer shot for that age group.
So far, 30.6 percent of Germany’s population of about 83 million has received a first dose and 8.6 percent are fully vaccinated, Robert Koch Institute data shows.
Germany is due to ease restrictions this weekend on people who are fully vaccinated or who have recovered from COVID-19. They will be exempt from a night-time curfew and will no longer need to provide a negative test to go shopping.
Germany has been hit by a third wave of the pandemic but the number of new cases is easing off. The seven-day incidence fell to 129 per 100,000 on Thursday, Robert Koch Institute data showed.
The vaccine rollout in the country was much criticised for its slow start, but has dramatically picked up the pace, with 15 million shots given in April, as many as in the three previous months combined, Spahn said.