Health workers and care workers as well as other high-risk groups will have to wait at least two weeks longer to be vaccinated against the coronavirus due to supply problems from vaccine manufacturer AstraZeneca.
Maria Paulke-Korinek from Austria’s Ministry of Health told Ö1 Morgenjournal that phase two of the strategy, in which health workers, mobile care workers and people with disabilities were to have received the vaccine, will now not begin until mid-March – two weeks later than originally planned.
Originally Austria had planned to use the AstraZeneca vaccine as a significant part of its vaccination strategy.
However, in January the manufacturer announced it would initially deliver a smaller amount to the EU countries than had actually been agreed due to production bottlenecks.
Austria’s medicine agency has also recommended the AstraZeneca vaccine only be given to people aged 65 and under, citing a lack of data to show how effective the vaccine is for older people.
Germany and Italy have also decided not to recommend the vaccine for seniors.
The first deliveries of AstraZeneca vaccines should come to Austria next week, Paulke-Korinek told Ö1 Morgenjournal. AstraZeneca's vaccine has the advantage that it is much easier to store and transport as it does not have to be stored at very low temperatures.
Now it is the turn of the federal states to determine who should receive the first vaccines. An announcement from Vienna is expected during the course of the week.
However, one factor may speed up the vaccination programme. It has been decided the two required AstraZeneca vaccination doses can be spaced out longer than is the case with the Biontech/Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
As recommended by the national vaccination board, the interval for the AstraZeneca jab will be about eleven to twelve weeks.
High-risk patients will only be given vaccines from Biontech/Pfizer and Moderna in Austria.