Luxembourg's Superior Council for Infectious Diseases (Conseil supérieur des maladies infectieuses - CSMI) issued on Friday new recommendations concerning the administration of AstraZeneca's Vaxzevria vaccine against COVID-19.

In its opinion of 16 April 2021, the CSMI presented its position on the conditions for administering the COVID-19 vaccine from AstraZeneca, henceforth called Vaxzevria, in the light of recent guidance from the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and the introduction of restrictions of its use on the basis of age by Germany (60+), France (55+), and Belgium (50-60, depending on the availability of alternatives) and the United Kingdom (30+) in the last few days.

On 7 April 2021, the EMA concluded that there was a possible link between the administration of the Vaxzevria vaccine and unusual thromboses associated with thrombocytopenia (low blood platelet count) in the two weeks following the administration of the vaccine. The EMA clarified that these unusual thromboses are a very rare side effect of the vaccine and that the benefits continued to outweigh any possible risks.

Nevertheless, as a precaution, the CSMI has recommended the following: the continued use of Vaxzevria for the vaccination of all persons aged 55 and over; the suspension of the use of this vaccine among people under 30 (whether or not they are considered vulnerable) and among 30-54 year-olds who are not considered to be vulnerable; to favour the vaccination of vulnerable individuals (due to a preexisting condition) aged 30 to 54 with an mRNA vaccine product (Pfizer or Moderna). For this age group, however, due to the importance of deploying vaccination and achieving the widest possible vaccination coverage as soon as possible, vaccination with Vaxzevria should be offered as a vaccine alternative in the absence of other vaccines; to vaccinate pregnant women with an mRNA vaccine product (according to the recommendation already issued on this subject). 

Due to a lack of scientific data at present, the CSMI does not recommend using an mRNA vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna) for the 2nd dose following a 1st dose of Vaxzevria.

The Government Council has decided to follow the advice of the CSMI in application of the precautionary principle. As announced at a press conference on Friday, people aged between 30 and 54 will have the opportunity to register themselves on a waiting list to voluntarily receive the Vaxzevria jab. Those registered on this list, which will open during the week starting Monday 19 April 2021, will receive an invitation according to the date of registration and according to the availability of the Vaxzevria vaccine.

The government has decided not to follow the recommendation of the CSMI to administer the 2nd dose of Vaxzevria vaccine at an interval of twelve weeks after the 1st dose. Instead, the 10-week interval will be maintained between the two doses.

Vaccine efficacy studies in relation to the AstraZeneca product are ongoing and new statements from the EMA are expected next week. 

The opinion of the CSMI is likely to be subject to modifications depending on the emergence of new data relating to vaccine safety, the availability and characteristics of vaccines as well as the epidemiological evolution in Luxembourg.