AstraZeneca Vaccine: Approval Also for Older People in Austria

Lifestyle & TravelHealth ♦ Published: March 8, 2021; 10:00 ♦ (Vindobona)

Austria's National Immunization Panel (NIG) has decided to repeal its restrictions for the Covid-19 vaccine from AstraZeneca. Previously, the panel had only released the vaccine for people from 18 to 64-years old, because of the lack of data for efficiency among older people. Now, however, studies have shown that the vaccine can be used for all age groups.

The AstraZeneca vaccine is now also available in Austria for people over 65. / Picture: © Wikimedia Commons / Gencat / CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0) Public Domain Dedication

After initial hesitation, several European countries, including Germany, Sweden and Denmark, have recently approved AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine for people over 65.

Austria's National Immunization Panel (NIG) followed suit, releasing the vaccine with no age limit and also for high-risk and at-risk individuals.

Several Austrian provinces had recently spoken out in favor of it several times. The Governor of Lower Austrian Johanna Mikl-Leitner advocated for more speed in the general release of the vaccine. The day before, her Styrian counterpart Hermann Schützenhöfer spoke out in favor of the approval for over 65-year-olds.

Vienna had already gone ahead and started to use the AstraZeneca vaccine for the older age groups. There was no need to wait for the "formal, printed publications," the Vienna Health Association said.

The National Vaccination Center had previously wanted to wait for the final peer-reviewed study publications in journals before giving unrestricted approval.

The vaccine has been approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) for people over 18 with no upper age limit, vaccinologist Ursula Wiedermann-Schmidt, a member of the NIG, said.

Studies that have not yet been completed show that the vaccine works "very well". So far, however, the vaccine panel has only said that if logistical problems arose, there was nothing to prevent AstraZeneca's vaccine from also being used in people over the age of 65.

Now, however, the unrestricted release of the vaccine has apparently been faster than announced, even at the national level.

Based on the available data from large application studies, which had been pre-published in recent days, a restriction was now no longer necessary, Austria's Health Ministry said.

"The vaccination campaign will thus continue to gain momentum," said Health Minister Rudolf Anschober.

We are now another step closer to the goal of making a vaccine available to everyone in Austria by the summer, Anschober said, adding that the data showed that it was a "highly effective and safe vaccine."

Through the cooperation of AstraZeneca with Oxford University, there have already been many publications on studies with the vaccine, which has been licensed in the EU since the end of January for all age groups from 18 years.

However, some national authorities - including those in Austria - still had too little data from the age of 65 onwards to recommend the vaccine without restriction.