Health Minister Chris Fearne has said AstraZeneca's COVID-19 jab will only be given to people aged under 55 when doses arrive in Malta later this month.

Fearne said that while AstraZeneca told Malta its vaccines are safe for all ages, there aren't enough studies to fully know the efficacy for older people.

For this reason, it will only be used in Malta on people aged between 18 and 55, he told parliament on Tuesday. 

He added that this could change if the government later receives an update from the British-Swedish firm.

Information they provided showed that their jab’s efficacy was “very good” and the first of 1 million doses will arrive in Malta in the next ten days, Fearne said.

Malta follows Germany in refraining from using the jab on older people but has gone one step further by reducing the age limit. 

The commission advising the German government last week said it should be not be offered to people aged over 65, citing "insufficient data" on efficacy.

Fewer older people took part in the AstraZeneca clinical trials, making it harder to give precise levels on the protection the vaccine gives. 

The UK has been using the AstraZeneca vaccine in its mass immunisation programme for weeks but the EU's medicines regulator only gave it the green light last week.

It said it could be used on all ages, saying it would be safe for older people too. 

All eyes had been on whether the European Medicines Agency (EMA) would follow the lead of Germany.

"EMA has recommended granting a conditional marketing authorisation for COVID-19 Vaccine AstraZeneca to prevent coronavirus disease 2019 in people from 18 years of age," the Amsterdam-based EMA had said.

The watchdog said that there were "not yet enough results in older participants" over 55 to show how it would work, but that "protection was expected" as an immune response was found in them, and based on experience with other vaccines.

"EMA's scientific experts considered that the vaccine can be used in older adults," it said

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