The bad news for Moderna just keeps coming.
European health regulators are expressing another wave of skepticism about mRNA vaccines and whether the health benefit for young, healthy adults outweighs the potentiality for damage from rare but harmful side effects. Yesterday, it was France's medicines regulator advising men under 30 to avoid the Moderna jab.
Now, on Wednesday, Germany's advisory committee, also known as STIKO, issued a similar regulation targeted at Moderna. The committee said Germans under the age of 30 should stick to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine as studies suggest that it causes fewer cases of heart inflammation in younger patients, something that has been backed up by multiple studies.
STIKO also recommended that pregnant women, who are also at elevated risk of side effects, stick with the Pfizer jab as well.
The recommendations were issued following the latest safety data from the Paul Ehrlich Institute, Germany's top authority in charge of vaccines, along with new international data (some of which we cited above).
Several other EU countries have already recommended limiting use of the Moderna vaccine among younger people, including France, and several Nordic countries as well.
Here's a summary of the PEI data from Reuters:
The German PEI data showed a "report rate" for heart inflammations of 11.71 per 100,000 shots with the Moderna vaccine for men in the 18-29 age group, compared with 4.68 for the Biontech/Pfizer shot. For women, the rate was 2.95 with Moderna and 0.97 with Biontech/Pfizer.
In the 12-17 age group, the rate was 11.41 for males with the Moderna shot compared with 4.81 for Biontech/Pfizer. There was no data provided for females in the lower age group.
The EU's top drug regulator, the EMA, said last month that it had finished its review of using Moderna for booster jabs. It determined that adults aged 18 or older can get a Moderna booster at least six months after their second dose.
On Tuesday, Moderna applied for EU authorization of its COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 6-11 years, weeks after the US approved Moderna for booster jabs despite quietly acknowledging the heightened health risks for younger people.
Germany is in the middle of a sudden surge in new COVID cases; deaths have risen but much more modestly than in the past. Earlier on Wednesday, the Robert Koch Institute, Germany's public health authority responsible for reporting COVID data, said there were 39,676 new cases in Germany, a record for the third day in a row.
That brought the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases to 4,844,054. The total number of deaths increased by 236 to 96,963.
Whether more EU governments will independently raise issues about young people taking the Moderna jab remains to be seen, but it's certainly not outside the realm of possibility.