UPDATE: German cities halt AstraZeneca jabs for under-60s

UPDATE: German cities halt AstraZeneca jabs for under-60s
An AstraZeneca vile at a vaccination centre in Berlin's former Tegel airport on March 19th. Photo: DPA
The German cities of Berlin and Munich on Tuesday suspended vaccinations with the AstraZeneca jab for under-60s, as further reports emerge of blood clots among people who have received it.

“We are provisionally stopping vaccinations with AstraZeneca for under-60s,” said the German capital’s health minister Dilek Kalayci, adding that it was a “precautionary measure” while the city awaited an official recommendation from federal health authorities.

“We have no serious cases of side effects in Berlin,” Kalayci explained, adding that “everyone who has already received a first jab of AstraZeneca has very good protection”.

Germany’s medicines regulator Paul Ehrlich Institute (PEI) has now reported 31 cases of blood clots in people who have received AstraZeneca, Spiegel magazine reported Tuesday.

Almost all cases are reportedly in younger and middle-aged women, prompting several German hospitals to suspend the use of the jab for women under 55 this week.

READ ALSO: IN NUMBERS: How badly did the AstraZeneca suspension hit Germany’s vaccine rollout?

She said it was a “precautionary measure” pending an official recommendation from federal health authorities.

The southern city of Munich announced its own suspension shortly afterwards and reports suggested the Brandenburg region had followed suit.

Germany’s regional and federal health ministers will meet at short notice on Tuesday evening with the vaccine commission expected to make a new recommendation soon.

On Monday, Canada also recommended halting the use of the jab for under-55s “pending further analysis”.

The AstraZeneca vaccine has had a rollercoaster ride, with Britain, which developed it, staunchly supporting its use, South Africa outright rejecting it, and more than a dozen EU nations suspending shots in mid-March before most restarted rollouts but with a patchwork of age restrictions.

France has limited its use to over-55s, while Spain to under-65s.

A precautionary step

Charité spokeswoman Manuela Zingl said that the Berlin-based hospital was halting AstraZeneca jabs for those under 55, even though it had not reported any cases with serious side-effects after staff received the jab. However, she said the hospital wanted to take a precautionary move and wait for final evaluations. 

Charité has administered about 16,000 first and second vaccinations to its staff so far, she said, adding that “AstraZeneca accounted for most of that.”

READ ALSO: AstraZeneca vaccine ‘safe and effective’ against Covid-19, European Medical Agency concludes

The district of Euskirchen in North Rhine-Westphalia already temporarily stopped the jab of women under 55.

 After a vaccinated woman, 47, died last week, the district has now been notified of a suspected “serious illness” in a 28-year-old woman following vaccination with AstraZeneca, it said. Both had suffered from blood clotting, according to a district spokesperson.

READ ALSO: Blood clots ‘very likely’ linked to AstraZeneca vaccine, says German health expert

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