Officials plead with Germans to accept Oxford-AstraZeneca jab after vials left unused

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Germany has struggled to convince its population to take the AstraZeneca vaccine after a muddled communication campaign. (Getty)
Germany has struggled to convince its population to take the AstraZeneca vaccine after a muddled communication campaign. (Getty)

German officials are pleading with people to accept the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine after reports emerged of thousands of people turning down their jabs and full vials being left unused.

Health minister Jens Spahn responded on Wednesday to reports that essential workers were reluctant to receive the AstraZeneca shot after some experienced strong side-effects, saying it was both safe and effective.

"I would be vaccinated with it immediately," Spahn told reporters.

Like most European countries, German states typically do not offer people a choice of which vaccine they will get, leading in some cases to people not turning up to appointments to get the AstraZeneca vaccine.

There has been muddled communication over the efficacy and usefulness of the AstraZeneca vaccine in the EU leading to a mindset among some that it is a second-rate jab compared to the Pfizer and Moderna ones.

German Health Minister Jens Spahn. (Getty)
German health minister Jens Spahn. (Getty)

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Despite the EU's struggles to distribute the vaccine, German healthcare facilities have reported several hundred thousand AstraZeneca vials sitting unused and rampant no-shows at scheduled appointments.

Germany has taken delivery of 737,000 doses from AstraZeneca but only administered 107,000, according to figures from the health ministry and the Robert Koch Institute that leads its pandemic response.

Italy, Germany, France and some other EU nations have said they will not be distributing the AstraZeneca vaccine to the oldest in their countries over the lack of data over its efficacy in the elderly.

AstraZeneca has denied their vaccine is not very effective in old people saying their data suggests there is no reason to suspect this despite the lack of studies specifically on the elderly.

Watch: Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine recommended for adults of all ages, say scientists advising the WHO

World Health Organization and EU guidelines both say the AstraZeneca jab is effective for all.

After German authorities announced it would not be giving the AstraZeneca jab to people over 65 various media outlets erroneously reported the jab was only 10% in old people, which was denied by the government but created further doubt among the population.

Read more: Prince Charles 'saddened' by low uptake of coronavirus vaccine in minority communities

Kordula Schulz-Asche of the Green party told Welt daily that scepticism was spreading even among healthcare givers "which can be blamed on a truly catastrophic communication strategy" from Berlin.

The health ministry in the eastern state of Saxony said: "This vaccine is an excellent way to prevent serious COVID disease. Still, we note that there are still vacant vaccination dates for AstraZeneca.

"From our point of view, it is wrong that this vaccine is available but not being used."

Watch: COVID-19: 'I'll wait for the English vaccine - How 'nationalism' is affecting the vaccine rollout

Italy, Austria, France and Bulgaria are also reporting some public resistance to the vaccine after doubts were raised over its efficacy.

In Italy, some medical associations asked for their doctors to receive the Pfizer jab due to its immunity kicking in faster compared to the AstraZeneca one.

Their argument is as they are on the frontlines they need protection as soon as possible and they believe the AstraZeneca jab is good for the wider population.

However, the stance of medical professionals in Italy has led to other groups like teachers and the police also asking for the Pfizer jab over the AstraZeneca one.

France's health minister Oliver Veran got the jab live on television to drum up support after facing reluctance from their population.

Studies have shown the AstraZeneca jab does have a lower efficacy at preventing the virus compared to the Moderna and Pfizer jabs.

However, both of the latter jabs need to be kept at extremely low temperatures requiring highly specialised freezers to be stored presenting a significant logistical challenge.

The AstraZeneca jab can be kept at temperatures that can be achieved by conventional freezers making distribution far easier.

The jab is also as effective as the other jabs at eliminating almost all serious cases of COVID-19 which lead to hospitalisations and death - arguably the most important aspect of any vaccine.

The UK has been rolling out the AstraZeneca jab to the elderly for weeks, although there is no data yet to show how effective it has been in reducing serious cases of the disease.

The EU has had a difficult relationship with AstraZeneca after it revealed a few weeks ago it could not deliver as many jabs as it had previously said it would be able to.

This created a war of words between the company and the bloc as the EU demanded AstraZeneca provided the jabs it said it was unable to.

The setback was one of many the EU has faced meaning the bloc has got off to a slow start in the vaccine race and is lagging behind the UK and US.

The problems with distribution means EU nations cannot afford to let their citizens pick and choose which jab they receive.

Watch: What is long COVID?

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