The Dutch Health Council has followed other medical regulators in limiting its approval of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine to those aged under 65, as it issued a warning about the jab’s efficacy due to limited data.
The regulator recommended on Thursday that the first available doses of the vaccine be given to people aged 60 to 65, as well as those with medical conditions which put them at greater risk of serious illness and death from the virus.
However, the council said the efficacy of the vaccine in people over 55 cannot be calculated due to the limited number of volunteers from that age group in phase III clinical trials of the AstraZeneca jab.
The agency did stress that the jab produces an immune response in the elderly “comparable” to that seen in people who are 18 to 55 years old.
In terms of people over 55, “the Council therefore assumes that the vaccine is also effective in this group,” it said in a statement accompanying its advice, published on Thursday.
“Because the immune system starts to function less well with increasing age, the Council considers the vaccine suitable for people up to 65 years of age.”
Officials responsible for the Covid-19 vaccine programs of Poland, France and Germany have all said that the AstraZeneca jab should not be used among the over-65 group, while Switzerland’s regulator has delayed its approval of the jab altogether.
The EU’s medicines regulator has approved administering the vaccine to people over 18, noting that while it’s not currently known how well it works in patients 55 and older, it is expected to provide some virus protection to people in the latter group, given the way older people have responded to other vaccines.
While the European Medicines Agency gave its approval, each member state also has its own national authorization process.
Some opposition to the AstraZeneca vaccine, which was developed in partnership with the UK’s Oxford University, has also focused on an error during clinical trials that saw people under 55 accidentally given half doses of the vaccine, followed by full second doses.