AstraZeneca jabs will no longer be limited to people aged 60 and older, German federal and state officials agreed on Thursday.
The move comes as Germany moves to quickly vaccinate its population following a sluggish vaccine rollout that has picked up pace in recent weeks.
What did officials say?
People will also no longer have to wait 12 weeks to receive their second dose of the AstraZeneca jab, Health Minister Jens Spahn announced. The second dose can be delivered as soon as four weeks after the first.
"This means that when it comes to vaccinations in doctors' surgeries, it is the doctors who decide who is to be vaccinated and when," Spahn said. It is now a matter of being able to "exercise more pragmatic flexibility."
The news came as a bill to loosen restrictions for vaccinated people passed the lower house of Germany's parliament.
The nationwide scheme still requires final approval. Once passed, it will provide unified rules on the AstraZeneca vaccine that have varied slightly from state to state.
Germany started immunizing the elderly first, then extended the program to medical workers and chronically ill. Workers whose job requires a lot of contact with other individuals (like bus drivers, supermarket cashiers) are next in line.
But from next week one million doses of AstraZeneca will be administered by doctors as they see fit.
On very rare occasions, the AstraZeneca vaccine is believed to trigger serious blood clots in younger people. Dozens of countries paused the use of the vaccine for younger people, but several have since resumed its use after health regulators said the benefits of the shot outweigh any risks.
Children to be offered vaccine by August
Under the scheme, Germany will also aim to offer vaccines to all children aged 12 and over by the end of August, once the European medical regulator approves a vaccine for younger people.
All 12- to 18-year-olds will be offered vaccines in the summer "on the condition of the expected approval, if nothing unforeseen happens," Spahn said.
About 8.6% of the German population is fully vaccinated against the virus, and 30% have had at least one vaccine dose.
aw/rs (dpa, Reuters)