EU made ‘mistake’ on Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine says expert
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The country has lifted its ban on rolling out the shot to over-65s after new clinical data was made available that proved its efficacy in older age groups. Paris’ screeching U-turn came after Mr Macron branded the AstraZeneca vaccine “quasi-ineffective” during a bloc-wide row with its manufacturer over delays to deliveries. Health minister Olivier Veran pointed to new expert analysis as he announced the change on Monday night.
He said: “The Haute Autorite de Sante now considers as of today that all three vaccines that we have in France have a remarkable efficacy to protect people against the risk of severe forms of COVID-19.
“As a result, I can announce that from now on people aged 50 and above who have comorbidities such as diabetes, high blood pressure or a history of cancer can be vaccinated with AstraZeneca, including those aged 65 to 74.”
French regulators previously recommended that the Anglo-Swedish firm’s jab be given to people aged 50 to 64 with pre-existing medical conditions.
The country will continue to use the BioNTech/Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for those over 75.
Mr Macron’s unsubstantiated attack and the age restrictions on the Oxford-produced shot significantly slowed down France’s rollout of jabs.
The French leader claimed he was trying to “manage demand” for the vaccine by lashing out at AstraZeneca and suggesting Britain had moved too quickly to approve it.
As of Monday, the country had only used 24 percent of the 1.1 million AstraZeneca vaccines it had received, according to health ministry data.
Other European Union states have raised similar issues in administering the UK-made jab.
Germany, Italy, Spain and Belgium have all reported difficulties in convincing people to accept the vaccine.
Each country’s health authorities have recommended tight age restrictions on the AstraZeneca jab.
In contrast, the EU’s European Medicines Agency has approved the shot for use in all individuals aged 18 and over.
Britain has used doses of the Oxford jab as a key pillar of its highly successful vaccine rollout.
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More than 20 million first jabs have been given – compared with the far more slower mass vaccination programme in mainland Europe.
England’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer last night took aim at EU efforts to discredit the AstraZeneca jab.
Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said new studies had “vindicated” Britain’s one-dose strategy.
He said that “non-adoption” by “many countries” for over-65s was not scientifically backed up.
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He told a Downing Street news conference that Public Health England data, which found the vaccine is more than 80 percent effective at preventing hospital admission up to four weeks after the first dose, “clearly vindicated” Britain’s approach.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock called the findings “exciting” and “extremely good news”.
“The protection that you get from catching Covid 35 days after a first jab is even slightly better for the Oxford jab than for Pfizer, albeit both results are clearly very strong.” This “may also help to explain why the number of Covid admissions to intensive care units among people over 80 in the UK have dropped to single figures in the last couple of weeks,” he added.
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