EU is struggling to agree a common approach, seen as vital to boost public confidence
Italy, Spain and Belgium have joined other European countries in limiting the use of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine to older age groups as the EU struggles to agree common guidelines to counter expected public hesitancy.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) on Wednesday found a possible link between the vaccine and very rare cases of blood clots, although it said its benefits far outweighed the risks and did not announce any restrictions.
In Britain, the government’s joint committee on vaccines and immunisation said healthy people aged 18 to 24 who were not at high risk of Covid should have the option of a different jab if one was available in their area.
Belgium’s national and regional health ministers subsequently agreed to restrict the vaccine to the over-55s for a month, while Italy’s health minister, Roberto Speranza, said late on Wednesday the shot should be offered only to those aged 60 and over.
Franco Locatelli, the head of the country’s health council, said people who had already had the first dose of the AstraZeneca jab could proceed with the second, and officials stressed that while the shot was not recommended for under-60s, it was not prohibited.
After meeting regional health chiefs, Spain’s health minister, Carolina Darias, also announced late on Wednesday that administration of the AstraZeneca vaccine would be temporarily suspended nationwide to people under the age of 60.
Spain’s autonomous regions have given more than 2.1m first shots of the Anglo-Swedish shot under a patchwork of rules and at various paces. Authorities now have to decide whether to use a different vaccine for the second dose.