While France says new Scottish data shows efficacy in those aged 65+; Canada says there is not enough data to justify vaccinating this age group.
The AstraZeneca vaccine was authorized in Europe in January with no age limit; but France had decided to introduce a 65-year-old age limit, saying there was insufficient data on efficacy to use the vaccine in older people.
Updating its guidelines today, however, the country’s health authority has changed its recommendations to include people older than 65.
The decision was made after assessing data from Scotland, which showed that the rollout of Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines in Scotland led to a substantial fall in severe COVID-19 cases requiring hospital admission after one dose.
The study - which covers both Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines - shows that the risk of hospitalisation from COVID-19 fell by up to 85% (Pfizer) and 94% (AZ) four weeks after vaccination of the first doses.
“Data from a Scottish real-life study, submitted to the British Medical Journal and awaiting peer-review, show very encouraging results on the benefits in the short term of a first dose of a vaccine (either Pfizer or AstraZeneca) against COVID-19 in people aged over 65 years old,” notes France’s Haute Autorité de Santé.
“This Scottish study into the impact of vaccination on hospitalisations showed that, no matter the age group, one dose of a vaccine significantly reduced the number of hospitalisations.
“Given these encouraging results, we have redefined the place of the AstraZeneca vaccine in our strategy and widened its use to people aged 65+."
Elsewhere in Europe, Germany also has a 65 year-old age limit on the administration of the AstraZeneca vaccine. The head of the German Society for Immunology, however, is calling on the country to raise the age limit.
Canada authorized the AstraZeneca vaccine for use in the country on Friday (February 26), with the first doses set to arrive in the country this week.
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI), however, yesterday said it ‘does not recommend the use of the vaccine in individuals 65 years of age and older due to limited information on the efficacy of this vaccine in this age group at this time.’
While Canada has ordered large quantities of multiple vaccine types, it has fallen behind in vaccination rates with 5.11 doses delivered per 100 people (compared, for example, to the US at 23.16 doses per 100 people), according to Bloomberg's vaccine tracker.