Germany 'overstated' AstraZeneca data says expert
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Berlin has been urged by a team of pandemic researchers from Humbolt University and the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research that delaying the second dose of the vaccines from BioNTech/Pfizer and Moderna past the current 28-day period could accelerate the process. They believe the move could also provide greater protection for the country’s population that could result in “up to 10,000 or 15,000 fewer deaths” in Germany. The authors of the study also argue that delaying the second dose of the jab could also put a stop to vaccine mutations from continuing to gain traction.
Germany’s vaccination advisory committee is reportedly looking at the possibility of extending the time between the first and second vaccine doses to 60 days, with 90 days also being looked at.
Pandemic researcher Dirk Brockmann claimed that a dramatic change in the Covid vaccine from strategy could boost the country’s sluggish rollout of the jabs.
He said delaying the second dose of the vaccine would double the speed of ongoing vaccinations as “you no longer just put the second dose back in the fridge and wait.”
Professor Brockmann told Germany’s Deutsche Welle news service: “According to that data, there is complete protection against death from Covid in the risk groups after the first dose. That’s a huge success.
“We are now seeing the third wave, so this change could protect a lot more people in the high-risk groups from death and serious illness.”
Thomas Mertens, the boss of Germany’s vaccination advisory committee, also told the news service: “At the time of our recommendation, much less was known about the duration of immunity,” he told Deutsche Welle.
“I have no problems agreeing to the extension, based on the new data”.
He also suggested Germany could perform a dramatic U-turn on its recommendation not to administer the AstraZeneca vaccine to people over the age of 65, admitting errors had been made.
Mr Mertens conceded “somehow the whole thing went very badly” but promised “a new, updated recommendation very soon”.
The German vaccination advisory committee boss told the ZDF news network the vaccine commission had never intended to criticise the actual jab from AstraZeneca, but had instead tried to highlight that some underlying data was not available.
This crucial decision triggered a huge backlash in Germany against the vaccine, with some three quarters of the 1.4 million vaccine doses that had been delivered still being unused.
Mr Mertens insisted the commission thought the AstraZeneca vaccine was “very good”, adding their thoughts of the jab is “now even better with the addition of the new data”.
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He said: “We had the data that we had and based on this data we made the recommendation. But we never criticized the vaccine.
“We only criticised the fact that the data situation for the age group over 65 was not good or not sufficient.”
On Friday, Germany’s Government and health bosses urged the public to take the AstraZeneca vaccine as they desperately try to fight off scepticism about its effectiveness and safety.
Health authorises in Germany and other countries throughout the EU are facing resistance to the jab after some front-line workers were forced to call in sick after suffering side effects including a fever and some muscle pain.
Health Minister Jens Spahn told a news conference: “We strongly recommend it: this vaccine is safe and effective.”
Referring to the BioNTech /Pfizer and Moderna vaccines approved for use by the EU, he added: “It protects oneself and others, like both other vaccines.”
Germany’s health ministry had said earlier in the week it had administered just 15 percent of the vaccine jabs available.
But Lothar Wieler, head of the Robert Koch Institute for Infectious Disease, insisted data from both the UK and Israel, where there had already been extensive vaccination with AstraZeneca’s drug, showed the jab was “very, very effective”.
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