The Czech Ministry of Health recommended that people under the age of 60 should not receive AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, stated the ministry in a press release referring to the opinion of the Czech Vaccinological Society and the State Institute for Drug Control. However, anyone who has already received the first dose of AstraZeneca will get their second dose with the same vaccine.
Other European countries adopted similar age restrictions much earlier, but the authorities in the Czech Republic have long opposed this step.
Czech authorities decided to follow suit due to a rare side effect seen with both vaccines, the so-called thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS), which causes blood clots in the brain. According to the European Medicines Agency (EMA), about 0.01 percent of those vaccinated, mainly in the younger age group, suffer from TTS.
The Czech Republic uses vaccines from four manufacturers and has so far administered over 6 million doses in total, including 600,000 doses from AstraZeneca and about 56,000 doses from Johnson & Johnson.
The Ministry has already informed vaccination centers and general practitioners about the new guidelines. Experts have also prepared recommendations on how to proceed if TTS occurs.
“I welcome that the State Institute for Drug Control prepared an information letter for healthcare providers, giving them recommendations on how to proceed if someone develops health complications due to this rare side effect,” said Health Minister Adam Vojtěch.
The Vaccinological Society recommended lowering the age as early as May 20. Some countries do not even administer AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson to people in the 50 to 60 age group. The new decision could be problematic, especially for general practitioners who use mainly these two vaccines.
Doctors often have to persuade patients to get AstraZeneca due to information about the risk of thrombosis, reported in media in the past several months. General practitioners also argue that thrombosis is more common from having the COVID-19 infection rather than after vaccination. Smokers or women using hormonal contraception are also more at risk.
Restricting the use of both types of vaccines was last addressed by the Ministry of Health at the end of May, under the team of former Health Minister Petr Arenberger.
“The Ministry of Health has decided not to restrict vector-based vaccines from AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson. Both of these vaccines are safe, which has been repeatedly confirmed by the recommendations of the European Medicines Agency,” said the then spokeswoman of the Ministry of Health Jana Schillerová.
Title image: In this Friday, Feb. 19, 2021 file photo, a pharmacist prepares a syringe from a vial of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine during preparations at the Vaccine Village in Antwerp, Belgium. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo, File)