Experts: AstraZeneca should be used to primarily vaccinate over 60s

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Coronavirus vaccine in progress. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Estonia's AstraZeneca vaccine policy will change after immunoprophylaxis experts agreed the vaccine should be primarily used to vaccinate the over 60s in the coming weeks. Until now the vaccine has had an age cap and was redirected to younger frontline workers.

The Expert Committee on Immunoprophylaxis met on Thursday to create new guidelines after the European Medicines Agency (EMA) released a report saying the vaccine was safe to use.

Maris Jesse, head of the expert committee, said on Friday: "At last night's meeting, the committee considered both the preliminary results of the European Medicines Agency's investigation and the infection situation in Estonia. Our experts based their recommendation on the data published by the European Medicines Agency and the fact that COVID-19 is a severe illness and requires hospital treatment."

She added: "Of course, we are also monitoring discussions and decisions in other countries."

More than a dozen European countries suspended the use of AstraZeneca last week after reports of people developing blood clots and thrombosis after vaccination. The EMA said there was no link and the benefits outweighed the risks. The coronavirus can also increase the risk of thrombosis, the expert committee said.

The committee said elderly and at-risk groups should still be prioritized in the vaccination process in the coming weeks and the AstraZeneca vaccine will now be redirected to the over 60s.

Previously, Estonian experts restricted the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine to people below 60 and redirected the doses to younger frontline workers while doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were prioritized for the over 60s. Now all vaccines will be used to vaccinate older patients.

Member of the expert committee Professor Irja Lutsar said the experts need to be honest about what they know and some adverse symptoms have been noticed after vaccination.

"If new knowledge comes, then we will change our recommendations. We understand very well that it confuses people. But it's a very confusing time," she told ETV's "Aktuaalne kaamera".

It is recommended that people monitor their health for 14 days after receiving a vaccination and a doctor should be contacted if shortness of breath, chest or abdominal pain, swelling or coldness of the limbs, severe headache or blurred vision, persistent bleeding, minor bruising or blisters on the skin is experienced.

"All of these cases have occurred 10 to 14 days after the vaccine dose. Those who have made it through this time can feel completely at ease. These cases have been extremely rare," Lutsar said.

President Kersti Kaljualid and 30 members of the government have received the AstraZeneca vaccine.

1.2 percent of people report side effects

Last week, the Health Board said 191,207 doses of coronavirus vaccines had been administered since December 27 and during this period, 2,315 adverse reactions have been reported to the State Agency of Medicines.

This is 1.2 percent of the total doses.

Of these, 804 reports are related to the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine Comirnaty, 29 to the Moderna vaccine and 1,482 to the AstraZeneca vaccine. The vast majority were related to mild side effects.

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Editor: Helen Wright

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