Germany says only Pfizer COVID jab should be used in under 30s

Close-up of the fag of Germany against a blue sky.

Germany's vaccination advisory committee has recommended that people aged under 30 should only be offered Pfizer/BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine Comirnaty, saying it seems less likely to cause heart inflammation than Moderna's rival shot Spikevax.

The draft guidance from the Robert Koch Institute's STIKO committee also says that pregnant women, regardless of their age, should get the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

The decision comes on the back of new safety data and applies to both the primary vaccination doses as well as any booster shots, and comes a couple of days after the Haute Autorité de santé en France (HAS) also arrived at similar recommendations.

There have been cases of heart inflammation – myocarditis and pericarditis – reported with both Comirnaty and SpikeVax since the two mRNA-based vaccines started to roll out, with most identified in younger people.

The STIKO said today that analyses "show that heart…inflammation in boys and young men and in girls and young women under 30 years of age were observed more frequently after vaccination with Spikevax than after vaccination with Comirnaty."

Health experts still emphasise that most cases of heart inflammation are mild, and the benefits of getting vaccinated far outweigh the risks. People aged 30 and over have no increased risk of myocarditis and pericarditis after vaccination with Spikevax, said the STIKO.

The decision is a further blow to the prospects for Moderna's vaccine, coming after the biotech cut its full-year sales forecast for the jab and missed revenue and earnings expectations in the third quarter.

Moderna blamed production issues that have meant some doses due for delivery this year have been shifted to early 2022. It is predicting sales of $17 to $22 billion in 2021, while Pfizer is forecasting Comirnaty will make around $36 billion.

Spikevax is Moderna's only commercial product, and is approved in the EU for people aged 12 and over.

The biotech filed to expand the emergency approval for the COVID-19 vaccine in the EU to include children aged six to 11 years old yesterday, and is also carrying out studies in children aged six months and over.