Germany’s regulator has given the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine the green light, while it points to side effects that are rare, and will put no restrictions on its use.
“Johnson & Johnson is the new kid on the block,” Klaus Cichutek, head of the Paul Ehrlich Institute, said at a news briefing on Friday. “J&J’s new vaccine is safe and effective, especially in older persons over 60 years of age.”
Some people have had “severe side effects” of thrombosis with thrombocytopenia, he added. “But I would ask again to perceive that we have eight reports in the US after 7m vaccinations.”
Germany’s decision comes three days after the news that the US pharmaceuticals group will restart shipments of its Covid-19 vaccine to Europe. The rollout had been delayed after a US recommendation. The European Medicines Agency on Wednesday concluded the benefits outweighed the risks even after it identified a “possible link” between the jab and rare blood clots.
Cichutek added that he is in favour of allowing the AstraZeneca vaccine also to be used and for citizens to receive it at their own risk.
The institute’s panel of vaccine experts had earlier paused the use of Oxford/AstraZeneca’s coronavirus jab, due to similar concerns over rare blood clotting incidents.
Germany meanwhile plans to lift vaccine prioritisation regulations in June, effectively opening the jab to all citizens, health minister Jens Spahn said on Friday. In May, as many as a third of Germans could be vaccinated, he added.
“As of this morning, 18.5m Germans have been vaccinated, that is more than every fifth,” Spahn said.
The health minister warned however of bottlenecks, adding that the pandemic conditions are still severe. Parliament approved national “emergency brake” lockdown measures this week, paving the way for curfews and other contact restrictions in regions where cases rise above 100 cases per 100,000 people.
Germany’s latest figures show 164 cases per 100,000 but some regions have recorded a higher rate.
Spahn urged the importance of ensuring that hospitals were able to handle Germany’s third wave, which health officials have warned in the past could overwhelm intensive care units.