Experts recommend scrapping AstraZeneca vaccine age limit

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AstraZeneca lab. Source: AstraZeneca

Estonian health experts have agreed the current age cap on the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine can be lifted in Estonia and the time between vaccine doses can be extended.

The Estonian expert committee on Immunoprophylaxis made the recommendations on Wednesday based on the latest research. These recommendations will now be viewed by the Ministry of Social Affairs who will make the final decision.

It was decided earlier this year that only people under 70 years old would receive the AstraZeneca vaccine in Estonia as, during trials, the vaccine was tested on few people over the age of 65. Estonian experts now believe it should not have an age cap.

The committee also recommended the time between doses should be extended for the AstraZeneca and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines.

In Estonia, two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine are given eight weeks apart, but the company recommends injections should be given between four and 12 weeks apart. Experts said the gap can now be extended to 12 weeks.

The time between the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines will also be extended from three to six weeks.

"We should get as many of our people vaccinated as possible as soon as possible," said virology professor Irja Lutsar who is also a member of the immunoprophylaxis expert committee and head of the government's scientific advisory council.

"We have gained more knowledge, there is more and more research. According to real-life data, previous decisions can be improved," she said on Wednesday.  

People who have already received their first dose and are waiting for their second will stay on the same vaccine schedule unless they call their doctor and ask to extend the time between jabs.

The immunoprophylaxis expert committee also recommended vaccinating COVID-19 survivors with a single dose of vaccine one week to six months after recovery.

Family doctor Marje Oona said this is because the disease effects people differently and the level of protection may vary from person to person.

The immunoprophylaxis expert committee advises the Ministry of Social Affairs on matters related to vaccinations and includes immunologists, allergists, infectious disease specialists, family doctors, paediatricians, nurses, the Health Board, the Health Insurance Fund and the Ministry of Social Affairs.

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Editor: Helen Wright

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