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EU regulator recommends halting AstraZeneca vaccines for over-60s

·2-min read
MADDALONI, CASERTA, ITALY - 2021/06/09: Nurse prepares syringe with Astrazeneca vaccine to be administered to patients, during the inauguration event of the new vaccination center at the Caserma Magrone police station in Maddaloni (CE). (Photo by Vincenzo Izzo/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Nurse prepares syringe with Astrazeneca vaccine to be administered to patients, during the inauguration event of the new vaccination center at the Caserma Magrone police station in Maddaloni (CE). Photo: Vincenzo Izzo/LightRocket via Getty Images

The Oxford-AstraZeneca (AZN.L) coronavirus vaccine was put under more pressure this weekend as the leading EU drugs regulator recommended that countries should avoid giving it to people over the age of 60. 

The shot has been under intense scrutiny since its rollout began due to reports of extremely rare blood clots. Reuters reported that the head of the EU COVID-19 task force was quoted on Sunday recommending using other vaccines for over 60s as they become available. 

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) considers the vaccine safe for all age groups, and has been clear in its advice that the benefits of taking the vaccine outweigh the risks, however some member states have restricted its use in the older population.

The UK has also previously recommended using an alternative to the AstraZeneca shot for those under the age of 40. 

"In a pandemic context, our position was and is that the risk-benefit ratio remains favourable for all age groups," COVID-19 task force chief Marco Cavaleri told the Italian newspaper La Stampa.

Cavaleri noted that due to caseloads falling and the fact that younger people are less exposed to the risks of COVID, using vaccines with mRNA technology, such as ones from Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech, would be preferable. 

The news follows the Italian government restricting the rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine to people aged over 60. 

Read more: PM doubles down on Northern Ireland protocol threat in post-Brexit trade spat

Some scientists worry that the back and forth on the AstraZeneca vaccine, which was one of the first to be approved by regulators, has undermined confidence in the jab. 

Roberto Burioni, one of Italy’s leading virologists, said in an interview that government regulators and AstraZeneca “communicated very very badly.” 

“We are losing the trust of even the most enthusiastic people.”

Elsewhere there have been calls to cut down the 12 week wait between jabs as variants of the virus bring cause for concern. 

Watch: Calls grow to change dosage interval for COVID-19 AstraZeneca vaccine

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