Denmark and Norway have joined a slew of European nations saying they won't give the Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine to people over 65, their national health agencies confirmed on Thursday.
Both cited a lack of data available on the use of the vaccine in older groups.
“We have reviewed the documentation, and until we have seen more data on efficacy among the elderly, it is our recommendation that the vaccine from AstraZeneca should first and foremost be an offer for people under 65,” Bolette Søborg from Denmark’s National Board of Health said in a statement.
“We want to make sure we have the best data and background for the vaccine policy at the national level,” a spokesperson for the Norwegian Institute of Public Health told CNN.
On Wednesday, Belgium recommended not administering the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine to people over the age of 55, following similar decisions in France, Germany, Austria and Sweden which restricted its use for people under 65.
Also on Wednesday, Switzerland declined to authorize the vaccine for any age group, saying data submitted by AstraZeneca were “not yet sufficient to permit authorization” of the vaccine.
In response to Switzerland’s decision, an AstraZeneca spokesperson said in a statement Wednesday: “AstraZeneca has now been granted a conditional marketing authorization or emergency use in close to 50 countries, spanning 4 continents, including most recently in the European Union.”
“We are confident that our vaccine is effective, well-tolerated, and can have a real impact on the pandemic,” the statement added.
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) – the EU’s regulator — has approved the vaccine without an age restriction.
In a statement made when granting conditional marketing authorization of the vaccine, the EMA said that in spite of a lack of data, protection was expected in older adults.
Italy recommends AstraZeneca vaccine for people under 55
Italy will administer the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine to people under 55 years old. They will start administering the vaccine to schoolteachers, army and police forces, prison staff and inmates.
The decision follows a Wednesday meeting between the government and regional governors to discuss the country’s vaccine campaign guidelines, the press office for the Ministry of Regional Affairs said Thursday.
People over 55 years old, especially those over 80s and the most vulnerable, will receive shots of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, the press office added.
Vaccines need to be approved by the Italian Medicines Agency before they can be distributed in Italy.
On Tuesday, the Italian Medicines Agency, Aifa, said they needed more data on the AstraZeneca vaccine. In a news release they said:
”Pending further studies, the indication concerning AstraZeneca vaccine remains preferentially for the population between 18 and 55 years and without serious illnesses.” Before recommending the vaccine for those over 55, the agency will wait for “further evidence on the benefit/risk ratio of the AstraZeneca vaccine” for that age group.
The news comes as Italy’s total Covid-19 death toll surpassed 90,000 on Thursday, according to official data.
The AstraZeneca vaccine was approved by the agency on Jan. 30th.