Germany cast doubt onAstraZeneca Plc’s Covid-19 shot for the elderly in a move that could perpetuate the European Union’s vaccine supply shortages.
The country’s immunization commission recommended that the drugmaker’s inoculation be authorized only for people between the ages of 18 and 64, according to a draft assessment released Thursday by the country’s health ministry.
The group, which evaluates vaccines for the German government, said there was insufficient information on the shot’s effectiveness for people over 65 years old, though it added that “beyond this limitation, the vaccine is also considered to be equally suitable.”
The recommendation comes a day before the European Union’s drug regulator is expected to approve the AstraZeneca vaccine, which would be the third shot cleared for use in the bloc.
While the panel’s recommendations aren’t legally binding, they’re the basis for state and federal vaccination guidelines. AstraZeneca shares traded 2.2% lower at 1:10 p.m. in London.
The EU has struggled to scale up its vaccine program with the U.K. administering three times as many doses per capita as the most advanced country on the continent, Denmark. The bloc has purchased as many as 400 million doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine and is in a dispute with the company over delivery delays.
The U.K. regulator approved the shot for all adults last month. Although few people over 65 were included in broad studies, the vaccine showed a strong immune response in older people in earlier-stage trials.
People over the age of 65 are a key population for Covid shots, as the disease is more deadly in older people, particularly those with chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease that are more common in the elderly. The company has said that its studies show the shot is effective among the aged.
More data on the efficacy of the vaccine for older adults will come from Astra’s U.S. trials, with results expected in March. About a quarter of the roughly 30,000 participants in that trial are aged 65 and over.
The EU, along with the U.K., is also facing delays for a shot fromPfizer Inc. and German partnerBioNTech SE, as the companies renovate a factory in Belgium.
AstraZeneca has said production of doses at the site is slower than expected, which will affect planned deliveries. The warning late last week has since escalated into a tense standoff, with the company and the EU accusing each other of fault.
— With assistance by Naomi Kresge, Suzi Ring, and John Lauerman
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