BERLIN (Reuters) – AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine should only be given to people between the ages of 18 and 64, the German vaccine committee said in a draft recommendation, a day before a European regulatory decision on whether to approve the drugmaker’s injections.
“At the moment there are not enough data to assess the efficacy of the vaccine from the age of 65,” said the committee, also known as Stiko, in a draft resolution provided by the German health ministry on Thursday.
“The AstraZeneca vaccine, unlike the mRNA vaccine, should only be offered to people aged 18-64 at any stage,” he added.
The risk assessment is based on the same trial data published by the medical journal The Lancet on December 8.
The European Union approved the vaccine developed by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech in late December, and gave the green light for the injection Moderna made in early January.
AstraZeneca did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
On Monday, the drugmaker denied that the COVID-19 vaccine was not very effective for people over 65, after German media reports said officials feared the vaccine might not be approved in the European Union for use in the elderly.
The German health ministry said of the 341 people vaccinated in the group aged 65 and over, only one had the coronavirus, meaning a panel of vaccinators had yet to come up with a statistically significant statement.
AstraZeneca Chief Executive Pascal Soriot said the company had less data than other drug makers on the elderly because it then started vaccinating the elderly.
“But we have strong data showing the production of very strong antibodies to the virus in the elderly, similar to what we saw in younger people,” he told Die Welt newspaper in an interview earlier this week.
Germany is grappling with limited vaccine doses after Pfizer and AstraZeneca announced delivery delays in recent weeks, and Health Minister Jens Spahn warned the shortage would last until April.
Spahn said there is a younger age group with existing conditions waiting to be vaccinated, adding that the final recommendation on the use of AstraZeneca injections will only come after EU approval.
Apart from those over 80 and people living in nursing homes, Germany prioritizes medical staff and front line care.
In late December, Britain became the first country to approve a coronavirus vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca.
The government has said it would not recommend one vaccine over another for different population groups, although data on the efficacy of AstraZeneca / Oxford injections in the elderly are currently limited.
It began rolling out the vaccine in January in a campaign targeting the elderly and saw more than 7 million given their first dose. The UK has also used vaccines developed by Pfizer and BioNTech.
Reporting by Caroline Copley; Additional reporting by Emma Thomasson and Ludwig Burger; Edited by Maria Sheahan and Alexandra Hudson