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LONDON- AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine provides reassuring immune responses in elderly people even if data on the precise level of protection is patchy, Public Health England said on Thursday after Germany recommended the shot was only given to under-65s.
AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine should only be given to people aged between 18 and 64, Germany's vaccine committee said in a draft recommendation, a day ahead of a decision by European regulators on whether to approve the drugmaker's shot.
Britain is already rolling out AstraZeneca's shot after it became the first country to approve the vaccine, developed with Oxford University, in December. It is also rolling out a shot developed by Pfizer and BioNTech.
"Both the AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines are safe and provide high levels of protection against COVID-19, particularly against severe disease," Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisations at PHE said in a statement.
"There were too few cases in older people in the AstraZeneca trials to observe precise levels of protection in this group, but data on immune responses were very reassuring."
Britain has given more than 7 million people their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and is racing to vaccinate the most vulnerable groups - including over 70s - by mid-February.
PHE said that using AstraZeneca's shot to vaccinate the elderly would save lives.
"The risk of severe disease and death increase exponentially with age – the priority is to vaccinate as many vulnerable people as possible with either vaccine, to protect more people and save more lives," Ramsay said.
(Reporting by Alistair Smout; editing by Sarah Young) ((email@example.com; +44 207 542 7064; Reuters Messaging: firstname.lastname@example.org))