In an interview published Sunday, a top official from the European Medicines Agency suggested it would be worth abandoning AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccination for all age groups if alternatives are available.
The EMA’s head of vaccine strategy, Marco Cavaleri, also told Italy’s La Stampa daily that the Johnson & Johnson vaccination should be reserved for those over the age of 60.
Both viral vector vaccines are approved for anyone over the age of 18, however there have been reports of uncommon blood clots. Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna are two mRNA vaccines that have been approved by the EU.
Following worries over the increased health risks for younger people, Italy on Saturday restricted AstraZeneca immunizations to adults aged 60 and over.
Asked if it would not be better to ban AstraZeneca including for the over 60s, Cavaleri said: “Yes, and it is an option that many countries, such as France and Germany, are considering in the light of the increased availability of mRNA vaccines.”
“However, incidents were very rare and after the first dose. It is true that there is less data on the second dose, but in the United Kingdom it (the vaccination programme) is going well.”
He added: “Among young people the risks of illness decrease, and the message for them could be to use preferentially the mRNA vaccines, but the choice is left to individual states.”
He added that the Johnson & Johnson single-shot vaccination had “fewer problems than AstraZeneca,” despite the fact that it is less commonly used.
“With one dose it is useful for some categories that are difficult to reach, but it remains an adenovirus (vaccine) and it is preferable to reserve it for the over 60s,” he said.
The EMA afterwards issued a brief statement on Twitter, saying, “Misinformation is making the rounds today.”
“This is the situation: Benefit/risk balance of AstraZeneca #COVID19 vaccine is positive and it remains authorised for all populations.”
Messenger RNA genetic technology teaches the body to replicate spike proteins like those seen on coronaviruses.
When the body is later exposed to the genuine virus, the spike proteins are recognized and the body is able to fight them off.
AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson employ a genetically altered variant of a common-cold-causing adenovirus as a “vector” to transport genetic instructions into human cells in viral vector vaccines.