Belgian scientists recommend Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine for over-55s – POLITICO


In a course reversal, Belgium’s Superior Health Council (SHC) announced on Wednesday that the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is safe and effective enough to use in people over 55.

Belgium was one of the EU countries in January to recommend against using the jab in older populations — setting age limits ranging from 55 to 65 years old — citing insufficient data. Those moves by national governments, led by Germany, countered the European Medicines Agency‘s recommendation that the vaccine is safe and effective enough to use in anyone over the age of 18.

After seeing promising data in February that showed one dose of the shot significantly reduced COVID-19 hospitalizations in England and Scotland, EU countries are making a U-turn — and Belgium is the latest.

The data is “is reassuring at first sight,” the SHC wrote in an updated recommendation this week. Still, the scientific group emphasized that caution “should be taken with regard to this preliminary, as yet unpublished data.”

France changed its recommendation on Tuesday, while Germany is expected to follow suit “within a few days,” Health Minister Jens Spahn told German media this morning.

The findings from the U.K. show “that AstraZeneca works very, very well with the over 65-year-olds,” Spahn said. He also raised the possibility of extending the time between administering the first and second shots of the vaccine: “Then we can do more first vaccinations.”

The restrictions on the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine have further slowed EU countries’ vaccination campaigns compared to the U.K.’s brisk pace. Some people are canceling appointments because they’re cool to the British-Swedish vaccine, and some countries are struggling to find people who fit priority groups but are within the right age group.

This article is part of POLITICO’s premium policy service: Pro Health Care. From drug pricing, EMA, vaccines, pharma and more, our specialized journalists keep you on top of the topics driving the health care policy agenda. Email [email protected] for a complimentary trial.


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