Third Covid-19 Vaccine: Only Approval for 18 to 64 Years Olds in Austria

Lifestyle & TravelHealth ♦ Published: February 1, 2021; 20:45 ♦ (Vindobona)

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has approved a third Covid-19 vaccine - produced by Astra Zeneca. However, Austria's National Immunization Panel has recommended the use of the newest of the three vaccines only for the age groups below 65 due to a lack of sufficient data for older generations.

The third Covid-19 vaccine, produced by AstraZeneca, will soon be used in Austria. However, only people up to the age of 65 will receive the newly approved vaccine. / Picture: © Bundeskanzleramt (BKA) / Dragan Tatic

After the approval of the third Covid-19 vaccine by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) on January 29, 2021, Austria's 18 members of the National Immunization Panel at the Department of Health and Human Services has unanimously recommend the use of Astra-Zeneca vaccine only in the 18- to 64-year-old age group.

"There are sufficient good safety and effectiveness data for this age group to recommend the vaccine as having good efficacy against symptomatic infection and severe morbidity (hospitalization, intensification, death) for 18- to 64-year-olds," according to the preamble to the recommendation, which was released on January 31, 2021.

For people over the age of 65, the mRNA vaccines (from BioNTech/Pfizer and Moderna) should be preferred.

However, "In the event of logistical problems in vaccine use with the mRNA vaccines, there is nothing to prevent use of the Astra-Zeneca vaccine in persons 65 plus," the recommendation states.

In the group of 65 years old and older, safety and immunogenicity data are comparable to those in 18-64 year olds, it said.

"Due to the small group size and the low number of cases of disease that have occurred, it is not possible at this time to make a reliable statement on efficacy for this age group," the expert panel states.

The panel concludes that "until further data are available in this age group, the preferred use of mRNA vaccines in persons 65 plus and high-risk patients is recommended according to the prioritization list."

The vaccination panel assumes, however, that when further data are available, another recommendation can be made.

Health Minister Rudolf Anschober and Chancellor Sebastian Kurz reacted to the recommendation of the vaccination panel with a joint statement, saying:

"With the approval by the EMA and the decision of the National Vaccination Panel, we now have clear guidance for the vaccine from Astra Zeneca in our hands and can start very quickly - if possible from February 7 - with the third approved vaccine in Austria."

The responsible committee of the European Medicines Agency EMA in Amsterdam issued a recommendation for approval without age limit.

According to the EU's Medical experts, the number of symptomatic diseases of Covid-19 n the age group of 18 to 55 years could be reduced by 59.5 percent.

Although the EMA also points out that there is not yet enough data for people over 55 "to make a firm statement about how well the vaccine works in this age group," the EMA says that some protection can be expected.

Italy, for example, recommends use only up to the age of 55, while Germany recommends use up to ages of 64.