Germany is doing away with limiting AstraZeneca jabs to priority group, and will instead make it available immediately to all adults, Health Minister Jens Spahn said on Thursday.
Millions of doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine have been safely administered in Europe, but concerns linger over a rare type of blood clot seen in an extremely small number of recipients, meaning that some people in early priority groups due to their age or pre-existing health conditions have been holding off on getting it, preferring to wait for another vaccine.
Health authorities have said that benefits of getting inoculated against COVID-19 far outweigh any risks, and Spahn said many people still waiting for an appointment for their first shot would be happy to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Therefore, the government decided to allow doctors' offices to vaccinate any adult patients for whom it is deemed appropriate, he said.
He suggested some people may have been deterred by the waiting time between AstraZeneca shots - currently 12 weeks in Germany, compared to half that for the BioNTech/Pfizer shot, which is the most popular in the country.
AstraZeneca's own guidance is that the second shot can be given between four to 12 weeks after the first, however, and Spahn said the government would now leave it "in the hands of the doctors" to decide when to give the second vaccination.
The BioNTech/Pfizer shot is the only one allowed in the European Union for people from age 16 and up, and Spahn said he expected it to be approved next month from age 12.
The German vaccine rollout was much criticized for its slow start, but has dramatically picked up pace, with 15 million shots given in April, as many as in the three previous months combined, Spahn said.
April 28 was the first time that the country administered more than one million doses in a single day.