Austria on Friday indicated it would change its position on the AstraZeneca vaccine and will now recommend it be used for over 65s.
Austria’s National Vaccination Board said new data justified the expansion of the vaccine to all age groups.
Health Minister Rudolf Anschober welcomed the decision, saying Austria’s “vaccination campaign should now continue to pick up speed”.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz also said the decision was positive for the country’s vaccination rollout.
What has happened with the vaccine’s approval in Austria?
On Monday, March 1st, Austria decided not to recommend the AstraZeneca vaccine for over 65s, just one week after indicating it would.
On February 24th, the head of Austria’s Vaccination Board Ursula Wiedermann-Schmidt said she will ask health minister Rudolph Anschober to approve the AstraZeneca vaccine for seniors.
Austria’s Health Ministry indicated on Monday there was not enough information to overturn the previous recommendation that the vaccine only be made available for under 65s, Austria’s Der Standard newspaper reports.
“The current recommendation was confirmed” said the Health Ministry on Monday.
“Based on only very few cases of the disease, no reliable statements about the effectiveness of this vaccine for people over 65 are possible at this point in time,” it said.
The rollout of the vaccine for over 65s is expected to begin immediately, reports Austria’s Der Standard newspaper.
A similar story in other countries
The approval of the vaccine for seniors has become an increasingly controversial topic in many European countries.
Authorities in Vienna said on Thursday they will start vaccinating over 65s with the AstraZeneca vaccine, in contravention of the recommendation of the Austrian government.
Other Austrian states indicated they would also go it alone, before the federal decision was made on Friday/
France and Germany both reversed their decision not to approve the vaccine for over 65s this week, saying more evidence had emerged to support its effectiveness with that age group.
Switzerland declined to approve the vaccine for any age group and indicated this week it would not go back on its decision, instead saying it was considering selling the 5.3 million doses it has already purchased.