March 2, 2021: The France government says older people with pre-existing conditions can now get AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine, revising its stance on the issue.
“People affected by co-morbidities can be vaccinated with AstraZeneca, which includes those between 65 and 74 years,” the health minister said.
France approved the use of the vaccine for under-65s only, citing a lack of older people’s data. Since then, studies have shown the jab is highly influential among the elderly.
The EU drugs regulator has authorized it for all adults, but it is up to each member to set its roll-out policy.
On Monday, in further development, Canada’s immunization commission advised against giving the AstraZeneca vaccine to above-65s, saying clinical trial data for that age group was too limited.
Speaking on television, French Health Minister Olivier Véran said people with pre-existing conditions like high blood pressure or diabetes could get the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine from GP surgeries, hospitals, and pharmacies with few days.
He added that those aged above 75 will still be offered either Pfizer or Moderna jabs in a vaccination center.
In January, French President Emmanuel Macron said that the AstraZeneca vaccine was “quasi-ineffective” for older age groups.
As more data has emerged, French health officials convince people that it is just as safe and effective as other Covid-19 vaccines.
Just 273,000 AstraZeneca doses are administered in France out of 1.7 million received by the end of February, health ministry figures show.
Some French doctors had spurned the vaccine, citing initial side-effects in some people and trial data suggesting it offered minimal protection against mild disease from the South African Covid variant. However, the developer said it still protects against severe disease.
About three million people have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine in France – against more than 20 million in the UK, which has roughly the same population.