A senior German immunologist has urged Angela Merkel to be vaccinated with the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine live on television.
Officials fed doubts over the Oxford University researched jab’s effectiveness amid reports – rubbished by AstraZeneca – that the vaccine was just eight per cent effective at protecting those in older age groups.
Angela Merkel caused further confusion when in an interview with Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, she said last week: ‘I am 66 years old and I do not belong to the group recommended for AstraZeneca.’
Carsten Watzl, secretary general of the German Society for Immunology, said the Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel (pictured) should allow over-65’s to receive AstraZeneca vaccine
Professor Carsten Watzl, secretary general of the German Society for Immunology
The European Medicines Agency has approved the vaccine for all adults, but both France and Germany ruled that it should not be given to the over-65s. France’s government has since said it wants to ‘rehabilitate’ the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4 Professor Watzl said: ‘I think Germany will also reverse course soon. In order for us to reach our vaccination goals we need people to get this [AstraZeneca] vaccine.
‘We do know that the vaccine works in that age group. The recent data from Scotland clearly show it elicits an immune response, the elderly are protected from severe disease by this vaccine.’
EU nations including Germany are being far outpaced by Britain in the vaccine race after Brussels was late to place orders with firms including Pfizer and AstraZeneca
Heinrich Atoni receives a Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine from Saskia Brinkmann, a German soldier authorized to vaccinate, in Bremen, northwestern Germany, on February 26
German leaders rebel against Merkel’s strict lockdown amid slow vaccine roll-out
Angela Merkel is facing a rebellion from regional leaders and voters over Germany’s call to extend lockdown restrictions following of a terrible start to the vaccine rollout.
Several of the country’s state leaders defied the Chancellor by allowing garden centres, florists and nail parlours to reopen from Monday.
Mrs Merkel had pushed for an extension to current lockdown restrictions, warning the country faced a ‘third wave’ of coronavirus if rules were lifted too quickly.
But Germany’s government system means regional leaders have power over lockdowns. Even Bavarian leader Markus Söder, one of Mrs Merkel’s staunchest supporters on the lockdown, is said to have moved away from her position.
A majority of citizens are now reported to support easing restrictions. A survey by ZDF television found that 56 per cent supported such plans while only 41 per cent were opposed.
Chancellor Angela Merkel and state leaders are expected to meet on March 3 to discuss a gradual easing of lockdown measures that are currently in place until at least March 7.
Despite Mrs Merkel agreeing with the 26 other EU nations to keep ‘tight restrictions’ on public life and free movement, she is expected to make a compromise after telling German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung ‘We always have to be flexible’.
Germany’s Economic Minister Peter Altmaier said he was confident that restaurants could be allowed to partially open soon so that outdoor dining on terraces and in beer gardens should be possible around the Easter weekend.
Restaurants, bars and entertainment venues have been shut since early November. A stricter lockdown from mid-December forced non-essential shops, services and schools to close as well. Factories and offices have remained open.
The lockdown has helped to push down infections and deaths since the start of the year. But worries over more transmissible variants of the virus and a third wave of infections persist, making it more difficult for leaders to ease restrictions.
A Public Health Scotland study using real-world data showed the AstraZeneca shot reducing Covid hospitalisations by 94 per cent in in Scotland – the same data for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine showed hospitalisations reduced by 85 per cent.
In the over 80s the study found the combined results of the vaccines saw a reduction of 81 per cent admitted to hospital.
It is this data which Professor Watzl believes will lead German regulators to ‘reverse course’.
He told the BBC: If at that point Angela Merkel were to go on live television and have the [AstraZeneca] vaccine, that would be great.’
On Friday Germany’s vaccine commission head, Thomas Mertens, hinted that they may well change advice over the AstraZeneca vaccine, telling ZDF the authority would ‘very soon publish a new updated recommendation’.
Only 187,000 AstraZeneca shots have been administered in Germany out of 1.5million due to have been delivered by last week.
‘The vaccine from AstraZeneca is both safe and highly effective,’ Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said on Monday. ‘The vaccine can save lives.’
In Berlin, the Tegel vaccination centres, which only offer the AstraZeneca jabs, say only 200 people are keeping the 3,800 daily appointments, The Times reported this week.
Germany’s 16 states have taken delivery of more than 1.4million AstraZeneca doses, but only 315,000 of these have been given to patients so far with some essential workers refusing to take the jab.
By contrast, 5.3million shots of the Pfizer/BioNTech jab – co-developed by a German firm – have been deployed out of 6.7million doses delivered so far.
The reluctance to take AstraZeneca shots piles further pressure on health officials already struggling to ramp up jabs because of the EU’s chaotic procurement.
Germany’s health minister Jens Spahn acknowledged that ‘too much vaccine is sitting in the fridge’, after Merkel said the AstraZeneca vaccine had an ‘acceptance problem’.
In France, health workers have also been refusing the vaccine after President Macron’s comments during the heated row over its effectiveness.
While the UK has handed out 27.0 doses per 100 people, the EU is lagging behind on 6.2 and has not significantly sped up its progress in recent weeks.
Latest figures show there have been 29.33 doses administered per 100,000 in the UK, compared to just 7.13 across the EU.
Germany (7.05 per 100,000 people) and France (6.34 per 100,000), both key players within the EU, are lagging behind the bloc’s average.
Kindergarten teacher Magdalena Lipowska receives a vaccination with the Astrazeneca vaccine from medical staff Renate Buhr in Bremen, northwestern Germany, on February 26