Germany Asks People Vaccinated With AstraZeneca to get Second Dose From Different Brand

Germany is asking those who received the first dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to get their second dose from a different brand. The country hopes mixing vaccines will boost the rate and effectiveness of full vaccinations as the highly transmittable Delta variant proliferates, the Associated Press reported.

Germany's vaccination committee, STIKO, issued the draft recommendation Friday, citing "current study results" that show immunity to the coronavirus was "significantly superior" when an AstraZeneca dose was mixed with an mRNA vaccine such as the ones from BioNTech or Moderna. STIKO suggested those who receive their first AstraZeneca shot are given an mRNA dose four weeks later, a significantly shorter turnaround period compared to the nine to 12 weeks needed between two AstraZeneca shots.

STIKO did not elaborate on the studies that the cross-vaccination recommendation was based on, but the country's disease control center indicated that the draft would be followed by a final recommendation with more source details. While researchers are still collecting data on mixing vaccines, they have said that receiving doses from different brands is likely safe and effective in building immunity, the Associated Press reported.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Germany Vaccinations
People stand in line to be vaccinated against Covid-19 at the mass vaccination center at Terminal C at former Tegel Airport on July 2, 2021 in Berlin. Germany has begun asking people who have their first dose of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine to get their second dose from a different brand. Sean Gallup/Getty Images

German authorities already decided in April that under-60s who had received a first AstraZeneca shot should as a rule get a second shot of an mRNA vaccine. The decision came after the AstraZeneca vaccine was linked to extremely rare blood clots in younger people. Germany recommends that under-60s consult with a doctor before taking it.

Spahn said Friday that enough mRNA vaccine is available to implement the new recommendation quickly and that it "makes the AstraZeneca vaccine more attractive," with large quantities now arriving and the prospect of a much shorter wait for the second shot.

He said the head of STIKO told ministers that the combination of AstraZeneca and BioNTech "protects as least as well as BioNTech-BioNTech as a combination, in some cases even better." But he also stressed that two doses of AstraZeneca give good protection. BioNTech-Pfizer has been the mainstay of Germany's campaign, with AstraZeneca a distant second in terms of doses administered.

Germany is keen to keep upping the pace of its vaccination campaign even as new infections have sunk to their lowest level in months, pointing to the rise of the delta variant. Authorities believe it now accounts for more than half of new cases, and are keen to ensure that people get their second vaccine shots.

"Only double-vaccinated protects well against Delta," except in the case of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, Spahn said.

As of Wednesday, Germany had given at least one shot to 55.1 percent of its population, and 37.3 percent were fully vaccinated. "That's a good figure, but it's still not enough," Spahn said.

Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is 66, recently received a second shot of Moderna's vaccine after taking a first shot of AstraZeneca. Her spokesman said that was a conscious effort to encourage people not to be afraid if they are advised to get a mix of shots.

Moderna Vaccines
A vial of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine for Covid-19 is seen at an inoculation venue at Haneda Airport in Tokyo on June 14, 2021 on the first day of the company's workplace vaccination campaign. Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP via Getty Images