The calls come after health officials in Poland agreed to raise the upper age limit for people being given the AstraZeneca vaccine to 69. Covid-19 cases have been surging in central and eastern Europe but in common with the rest of the European Union the region has faced problems with vaccine deliveries. The upper age limit for the vaccine produced by the Anglo-Swedish drug giant had previously been 65.
A number of EU countries set upper age limits for the AstraZeneca vaccine, citing a lack of research into its effect on older age groups even though it had been given the green light by the European Medicines Agency (EMA).
But Polish health ministry spokesman Wojciech Andrusiewicz said: “Today the health minister’s vaccination team recommended extending the age limit.”
Health officials in neighbouring Germany have faced massive public resistance against the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab after ministers refused to give it their full support at the start of the EU’s shambolic vaccine roll-out.
Earlier this week it emerged that just 240,000 doses of the 1.54 million doses received have been administered.
Angela Merkel has been forced to back down and declare the vaccine safe and efficient and Social Democrat Party (SPD) health spokesman Karl Lauterbach has now urged her to go further and approve it for the over-65s.
Mr Lauterbach said: “It was a big mistake that we did not approve the Astra vaccine for people over 65. The data would have allowed that.”
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“When weighing up the risks, one must assume that an 80-year-old infected with Covid-19 has a 600-fold risk of dying compared to a 30-year-old.
“Meanwhile, data from England showed that the vaccine worked excellently in 80-year-olds.
“It would reduce the risk of hospitalisation by 80 percent.
“It was a mistake that this incredibly good vaccine is not being used in the way it should be used.”
But there was an angry backlash on social media when it became clear public mistrust of the vaccine stemmed from ill-informed comments from European leaders as the roll-out got underway.
One critic tweeted: “Public scepticism was created by some German politicians and media.
“Coupled with Macron’s idiocy, it seems to me they shot themselves in both feet and of course it’s the people who suffer.”
(Additional reporting by Monika Pallenberg)