BERLIN — Dr. Peter Weitkamp placed an ad in eBay’s classifieds last week, offering appointments for an AstraZeneca vaccine — “free/to give away” — to anyone over 60. Many of his own patients didn’t want it, since the German government had spent months questioning the vaccine.
But within a day, his practice in Kirchlengern, in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia, was inundated with calls from people seeking the remaining 80 to 90 doses, including some offering to drive in from out of state. Another family doctor got a similar response after setting up a drive-through vaccination center in a grocery store parking lot to administer AstraZeneca shots her that her own patients had rejected.
To the doctors, the response was proof that plenty of Germans were willing, even eager, for doses of AstraZeneca. Days later, the German government apparently agreed and relaxed previous restrictions that limited the AstraZeneca vaccine to certain age groups over concerns about rare but dangerous blood clots.
vaccine passport to make travel within the European Union easier and Germany’s upper house of Parliament moving to exempt the fully vaccinated from many restrictions — social distancing and wearing a mask will still be required of everyone — many Germans who qualified for an AstraZeneca shot were reluctant to get one. That was partly because the rival two-dose vaccine from BioNTech and Pfizer could be completed in only six weeks, whereas the recommended wait between shots for the AstraZeneca one was 12 weeks.
“We will make a lot more flexibility possible,” Mr. Spahn told the public television station WDR on Wednesday. “Many people want to have their second shot earlier, with an eye on summer, and that is possible with Astra.”
The Lancet in February said the vaccine provided protection of more than 80 percent if the second shot was administered after 12 weeks, while after less than six weeks, it provided only 55 percent protection.
“The considerable damage to the image of AstraZeneca’s vaccine, which is still unjustified, is also because of the uncertainty caused by the disastrous communication of its possible side effects by politicians and authorities among the population,” said Ulrich Weigeldt, chairman of the German Association of Family Physicians.
German health authorities initially limited its application to younger adults because there wasn’t enough information on how older adults responded. Then they suspended it for several weeks because of reports of cases of blood clots accompanied by low platelet counts, before reintroducing it but only for individuals older than 60.