Coronavirus: German health ministry considers delaying second COVID-19 vaccine shot

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The German health ministry is seeking advice on whether to delay administering a second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine from BioNTech and Pfizer to make scarce supplies go further, according to a document seen by Reuters on Monday.

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The ministry is seeking the view of an independent vaccination commission on whether to delay a second shot beyond a 42-day maximum now foreseen, after a similar move by Britain, according to the one-page document.

The update, dated Sunday, follows widespread criticism over the weekend of Health Minister Jens Spahn - including from his conservative political allies - that Germany has failed to procure enough vaccine and been too slow to ramp up a nationwide inoculation campaign.

According to the latest daily update from the Robert Koch Institute, Germany has vaccinated around 239,000 people since starting its campaign on December 27 - short of the 1.3 million doses that were delivered by the end of 2020.

Britain’s move to delay administering a second dose of the BioNTech/Pfizer shot has been welcomed by a number of German health experts and comes as governments try to provide protection against coronavirus to as many people as possible by giving them one shot as soon as possible and delaying a second.

Vials with Covid-19 Vaccine stickers attached, and syringes, with a flag of the European Union. (AFP)
Vials with Covid-19 Vaccine stickers attached, and syringes, with a flag of the European Union. (AFP)

Other points in the health ministry document include recommending that an extra, sixth dose be drawn from vials of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine - a practice the companies say is feasible with the right needle and syringe and has been allowed in several countries.

European Union approval for a vaccine from Moderna, expected on Wednesday, should add another 1.5 million doses of supply in the coming weeks, it also said. In total, Germany should get 50 million doses of the Moderna shot this year under EU-wide procurement contracts.

Regarding the AstraZeneca vaccine approved last week in the United Kingdom, the German Health Minister said the European Medicines Agency’s (EMA) rolling review was proceeding at “high pressure”.

“The goal is, as soon as possible, to decide on the way forward and on the scope of approval” for the AstraZeneca vaccine, the document said.

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