Germany, Belgium and Sweden on Thursday released the application of the Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine to adults of all ages, following a path opened by France on Wednesday.
The four countries were among a dozen countries that had stopped immunizing older people due to lack of data on its effect on people over 55 years old. The positive results in the UK, where it has been used since early January, have made governments back down.
The restriction on use – and the public insecurity it has caused – has left millions of doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine stuck on European shelves.
In countries like France and Italy, just over 20% of the volumes received were injected, according to data from the European Center for Disease Control (ECDC). In Germany, about a third.
Across the European Union, 24.8 million doses of AstraZeneca are still in stock, or 27% of what was sent to the 27 member countries.
In announcing the change of course, the German government also announced that it would adopt a 12-week interval between the two doses, in line with UK (and Brazil) practice – research has shown that the protection increases with this measurement.
The German government has also announced gradual deflation, with an “emergency brake”, according to Prime Minister Angela Merkel, if the number of cases gets out of hand. Bookstores, beauty salons and garden centers will open from Monday, and up to five people from two families will be able to meet, with children under 14 exempt.
The Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine had previously been approved for all ages by both the European Union regulatory agency and the WHO (World Health Organization).
The manufacturers do not provide data on doses delivered in the UK, but the immunizer is the primary one in the UK vaccination program, which in total delivered more than 30 doses of vaccine per 100 people.
With plans to vaccinate all adults before the end of the first half of the year, England announced the easing of restrictions from next week, although scientists on Thursday warned that in parts of the country contagion was growing .
Difficulties in distributing vaccines in the European Union have led some countries, such as Hungary and Slovakia, to purchase vaccines that have not yet been approved by the EU, such as Sputnik V, from Russia. However, with production bottlenecks, the manufacturer has yet to ship the promised quantity.
The Hungarian government also bought Chinese vaccines from Sinopharm, of which it received 550,000 doses in mid-February.