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No age restriction and prioritization : What you need to know about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine

No age restriction and prioritization : What you need to know about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine

There is to be no age restriction for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. This was decided by the health ministers of the federal and state governments. But what are the risks of the vaccine? An overview of the most important questions and answers.

What are the risks of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine? Like its British competitor Astrazeneca, the U.S. manufacturer relies on a vector vaccine based on a cold virus. In both cases, the delivery vehicle into the human body could trigger cerebral venous thrombosis and platelet deficiency (thrombocytopenia) in rare cases, scientists suggest. "The risk of developing thrombosis-thrombocytopenia syndrome is currently lower at J&J than at Astrazeneca, but it is relevant," Stiko chief executive Thomas Mertens told our editorial team. Stiko has therefore recommended that the vaccine be offered primarily to those over 60 years of age.

  • What is the advantage of J&J? The vaccine gets by with one dose. Therefore, people are immunized after only 14 days. This has the advantage for individuals that they are considered fully immunized after a short time and can regain old freedoms. 
  • Why are health ministers abandoning prioritization? They are doing so to prevent the vaccine from becoming a slow seller. Germany has still only received 192,000 doses from J&J, with NRW accounting for 40,800 doses. By the end of June, Federal Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) expects ten million doses. But by then, a large proportion of people over the age of 60 are likely to have already received another vaccination. "To ensure timely use of existing vaccines from J&J under these circumstances, there will be no further prioritization in the planned vaccinations in doctors' offices and by company doctors," the ministers' resolution states quite openly. The North Rhine Pharmacists Association welcomes this: "If more than ten million doses are received by the end of the quarter, we will achieve great progress in vaccination rates. That would mean that in just a few weeks, almost 50 percent of the population will have received at least one Corona vaccination and almost twenty percent will have full vaccination protection," says association head Thomas Preis.
  • What will happen to refugees and disadvantaged neighborhoods? Because of the single dose, J&J is considered particularly suitable for immunizing "limited access or accessible individuals," according to the statement. And here it remains: "The vaccine will be made available by the state to vaccination centers and mobile teams and distributed from there to the homeless and groups of people from selected socially disadvantaged neighborhoods and residents of refugee shelters," explained the spokeswoman for NRW Health Minister Karl-Josef Laumann (CDU). 
  • What changes at the family doctor? For now, nothing. "In the practices, J&J has not yet been regularly vaccinated. The small quotas have so far gone to the municipalities via the state of NRW," explained a spokesman for the Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians of North Rhine (KV). The first doses will arrive here in June. 
  • What will happen to Astrazeneca's vaccine now? With Astrazeneca, too, the release of prioritization has caused the wind to shift. "Since prioritization has been lifted, we've had a lot of demand in pharmacies from physician practices wanting to get more Astrazeneca vaccine," Preis said. Currently, pharmacies nationwide can deliver about one million Astrazeneca doses to office-based physicians each week.

(Original text: Antje Höning; Translation: Mareike Graepel)