ROME, March 8 (Xinhua) -- Italy raised the age limit for use of the coronavirus vaccine from British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca on Monday, following similar moves from France and Germany in recent days.
When it was first released, research showed that the AstraZeneca vaccine -- unlike the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine or the vaccine from Moderna, the other two vaccines approved for use in Italy and other European Union states -- was recommended only for those under the age of 65.
The World Health Organization has said in early February that the vaccine appeared to be safe even when given to older people. But countries were slow to follow the WHO's advice.
With distribution problems with the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, countries have, however, started to reconsider their stance, with national health authorities testing the safety of the vaccine on the elderly.
Both France and Germany have given the greenlight last week for using the AstraZeneca vaccine on those aged 65 or older, followed by Italy's decision on Monday. According to news reports, the Public Health Agency of Sweden recommended the same move though the change has not yet been adopted.
Outside of Europe, Canada continued to prohibit the AstraZeneca vaccines from being used on those over the age of 65.
Italy and the AstraZeneca vaccine made headlines last week when Italy blocked a shipment of more than 250,000 doses of the vaccine to Australia based on charges that the company failed to honor its distribution contract in Italy. The company said it would still reach its target of distributing 4.2 million doses in Italy before the end of this month.
Some 261 candidate vaccines are now being developed worldwide -- 79 of them in clinical trials -- including in Germany, Italy, China, Russia, Britain, and the United States, the World Health Organization said on Friday.