Angela Merkel
  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel says she won't take AstraZeneca's coronavirus vaccine.
  • The vaccine has only been approved for under-65s in Germany, and Merkel is 66.
  • Recent trials suggest AstraZeneca's vaccine is linked to a dramatic drop in hospitalizations.
  • But over a million jabs have been left unused, with many Germans unsure of its efficacy.
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German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said she won't take AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine because she is too old, a comment which comes as millions of Germans refuse to take the vaccine because they do not trust it.

The pace of Europe's vaccine rollout has fallen dramatically behind that of the United Kingdom, partly because millions of people are reportedly refusing to take the AstraZeneca vaccine due to widespread mistrust of the AstraZeneca vaccine after European leaders cast doubt on its effectiveness.

Merkel, who is 66, was asked by German newspaper Frankfurter Allegemeine if she would receive a dose of AstraZeneca's vaccine to try and counter a widespread perception across Europe that the vaccine is ineffective.

But the chancellor said she would not because it has not been approved for use in over-65s in Germany, even though recent trials in Scotland have shown AstraZeneca's vaccine appears to be linked to a dramatic drop in the risk of hospitalization among older recipients

"'I am 66 years old and do not belong to the recommended group for AstraZeneca," she told the paper.

More than 1.4 million doses of AstraZeneca's jab are sitting unused in storage in Germany because of Germans' reluctance to take the vaccine, officials said in a health briefing this week, while only 240,000 have been administered, the New Scientist reported.

"We are working quite hard on this point and try to convince the people to accept the vaccine and really to gain the trust in the vaccine in the population," Thomas Mertens, who chairs Germany's standing commission on vaccines, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"But as you may know this is some kind of psychological problem too and it will, unfortunately, take a little bit of time to reach this goal," he said.

It comes after Handelsblatt, a German newspaper, published a report citing anonymous German health officials which said AstraZeneca's vaccine was only 8% effective. The fact-checking website FullFact said Handelsblatt's report was "unreliable" and the German government as well as AstraZeneca denied the story.

Merkel admitted there was an "acceptance problem" with the vaccine, which she said was "effective and safe," and warned Germans could not choose which vaccine they received. 

"Astra-Zeneca is a reliable vaccine, effective and safe, approved by the European Medicine Agency and recommended in Germany up to the age of 65," she told the Frankfurter Allegemeine. "All authorities tell us that this vaccine can be trusted. As long as the vaccines are as scarce as they are at present, you cannot choose what you want to vaccinate with."

France is also facing similar problems to Germany after President Emmanuel Macron suggested without providing evidence that AstraZeneca's vaccine was "quasi-ineffective" among over-65s.

France's ministry of health said on Tuesday that only 107,000 AstraZeneca jabs had been administered in the first two weeks of the vaccine rollout, French newspaper La Télégramme reported, despite the country having received more than 700,000 doses.

Officials in Austria, Belgium, and Italy have also started to report some resistance to the British vaccine, France24 reported.

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