Angela Merkel has turned to Russia for help with coronavirus vaccines after controversially restricting use of the AstraZeneca jab in under-60s.
The German Chancellor, 66, yesterday insisted she would personally have the AstraZeneca vaccine “when it is my turn”.
But Germany’s vaccine committee STIKO agreed under-60s should only receive the jab if they belong to high-priority groups, including high-risk patients and medical workers.
STIKO made the recommendation “on the basis of available data” about “rare but very severe side-effects” involving blood clots.
Yet it comes despite both the World Health Organisation and the European Medicines Agency saying the benefits outweigh the risks.
The EMA said this month that “the vaccine is not associated with an increase in the overall risk of blood clots”.
Germans under 60 who have already received a first AstraZeneca shot have the option of either receiving their second shot as planned, if they are high priority, or to wait for STIKO to issue a further recommendation, which it is expected to do by the end of April.
Overnight it emerged Ms Merkel, together with French President Emmanuel Macron, have discussed possible co-operation on jabs in a joint video conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The Kremlin said the trio had discussed the outlook for Russia’s flagship Sputnik V vaccine being registered across the EU – as well as potential deliveries and joint production of the vaccine inside the EU.
The EMA has yet to grant its approval to Sputnik V, but is reviewing it, and some individual EU member states have either approved it or are assessing it for approval at a national level.
It comes as President Macron prepares to address the French people tonight amid speculation he could announce another lockdown.
Meanwhile the new limit on the use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine is another setback in Germany’s already sluggish vaccination campaign.
In a statement responding to the STIKO recommendation, AstraZeneca said patient safety was its highest priority and noted the European and UK medical agencies had not been able to establish a causal relationship between the shot and clotting.
“We will continue to work with German authorities to address any questions they may have,” it added.
Germany’s Paul Ehrlich Institute said it had registered 31 cases of CSVT, which resulted in nine deaths, out of some 2.7 million people who have received the AstraZeneca vaccine.
With the exception of two cases, all reports involved women aged between 20 and 63.
Because use of the vaccine in Germany was initially limited to those under 65, the shot has been administered among younger women, particularly medical staff and teachers.
A UK minister today said there was no need to reconsider the AstraZeneca jab’s use in Britain.
Communities secretary Robert Jenrick told Sky News: “We’re 100% confident in the efficacy of the vaccine.
“That’s borne out by study after study, by our own independent world-class regulators and by recent research, for example, by Public Health England that’s shown that thousands of people’s lives have been saved since the start of this year alone thanks to our vaccine programme.
“People should continue to go forward, get the vaccine, I certainly will when my time comes.
“It is a safe vaccine and the UK’s vaccine rollout is saving people’s lives right across the country every day.”