Germany donates unpopular AstraZeneca jabs to low-income countries

Germany donates unpopular AstraZeneca jabs to low-income countries

Nearly 215,000 doses of coronavirus vaccines will be sent to Afghanistan, more than 350,000 doses to Sudan, says government

BERLIN (AA) - Germany has donated nearly 1.3 million doses of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine to low-income countries, the government announced on Monday.

Deputy government spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer told a news conference in Berlin that as part of Germany's commitment to the UN's COVAX initiative, authorities have begun shipping surplus COVID vaccines, including AstraZeneca, which has so far proved unpopular domestically.

She said the first 1.3 million AstraZeneca doses were being delivered to Sudan (357,600 doses), Ethiopia (271,200 doses), Afghanistan (213,600 doses), Tajikistan (100,800 doses), and Uzbekistan (355,200 doses).

The EU's richest country has so far purchased nearly 17.5 million doses of AstraZeneca's coronavirus vaccine, but it remained unpopular among the population, although both German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Chancellor Angela Merkel personally chose it in hope of boosting public confidence.

Earlier this month, Germany still had nearly 5 million unused doses of AstraZeneca, while tens of thousands of doses were destroyed by authorities as they passed their expiration dates, according to public broadcaster WDR.

Demmer said Berlin has promised to donate at least 30 million doses of coronavirus vaccines to the least-developed low-income countries by the end of 2021, with more shipments to continue in the coming weeks.

"Germany is making an important contribution to the global fight against the pandemic. Our vaccine donations would also help to prevent the emergence of new virus variants, which has a potential to threaten us too," she said.

According to a Cabinet decision last month, Germany will initially donate AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines to the UN's COVAX initiative.

Germany has so far received nearly 78 million doses of the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine, 17.5 million doses of AstraZeneca, 12.3 million doses of Moderna, and 4 million doses of Johnson & Johnson.

A majority of Germans preferred the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine due to its efficacy against new variants, while AstraZeneca remained unpopular due to concerns over its side effects.

In April, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) confirmed a possible link between the AstraZeneca vaccine and extremely rare cases of unusual blood clots.

However, the agency upheld its recommendation to continue using the vaccine, saying the "benefits of the vaccine in preventing COVID-19 outweigh the risks of side effects."

The World Health Organization (WHO) also recommended the AstraZeneca vaccine, stressing that "the vaccine is safe and effective" at protecting people from the extremely serious risks of COVID-19, including hospitalization, severe disease, and death.

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