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UPDATE 1-Spain to use AstraZeneca vaccine in 55-65 age group, J&J for older people

(Writes through with ministry statement, background)

MADRID, March 30 (Reuters) - Spain confirmed on Tuesday it would use AstraZeneca Plc’s COVID-19 vaccine for people aged 55-65, and said it could give Johnson & Johnson’s version of the jab to older people when that becomes available in the country.

Cadena Ser radio reported that a public health commission decided to remove the upper age limit of 65 on the AstraZeneca treatment. A week ago Spain decided to reintroduce that vaccine for people aged 18-65 following concerns over cases of blood clots.

The commission approved a document including the use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine for 55- to 65-year-olds, the health ministry said in a statement. A health ministry spokeswoman did not confirm or deny the report that the limit had been removed.

Cadena Ser said the AstraZeneca shots would essentially be given to under-65s because they had been set aside for essential workers and other segments of the population under that age.

The statement said the document also referred to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

“When there are available doses of this vaccine, it can be used in parallel with mRNA vaccines to increase the pace of vaccinations among older age groups,” the statement said.

So-called messenger RNA vaccines work by inserting synthetic mRNA that instructs cells to make a pathogen’s proteins or protein bits, spurring the immune system.

Cadena Ser said the document showed the Johnson & Johnson vaccine would be given to people over 66, alongside those produced by Pfizer Inc and Moderna Inc.

Spain has been among the countries worst-hit by the pandemic with 3.3 million registered cases and over 75,000 deaths. (Reporting by Isla Binnie and Nathan Allen; Editing by Richard Chang)

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