French Prime Minister Jean Castex has confirmed a delivery of the vaccine developed by scientists at the University of Oxford will arrive this week, as France looks to significantly increase its faltering immunisation programme. Medicines regulators in France only approved the use of the vaccine on Tuesday, and have advised against giving it to the over-65s. It follows similar announcements by Sweden, The Netherlands and Poland.
Last week, President Macron claimed the jab was “quasi ineffective for people over 65”.
UK health officials say the vaccine is safe and provides “high levels of protection” for all ages.
The Oxford vaccine can be stored in a normal fridge, unlike the Pfizer jab, which has to be kept at an extremely cold temperature of -70C.
Supply of the Oxford/AstraZeneca across the European Union has been disrupted until March due to issues at a manufacturing plant in Belgium.
France has only administered 1.5 million vaccines – compared to more than 10 million in the UK.
Speaking at a press conference this evening, Mr Castex said the Oxford/AstraZeneca would help France to reach its target of four million vaccinations by the end of the month.
In a post on Twitter, France and Europe correspondent, John Lichfield said: “France is to accelerate its vaccination programme with an extra 1.5m first jabs this months thanks to the arrival of the easier-to-use AstraZeneca vaccine, the PM Jean Castex just announced.”
The French Prime Minister added all care home residents will have been offered their first vaccine dose by the end of the week and second dose by early March.
He added the French government aims to offer the vaccine to all adults in France by the end of the summer.
Last week, President Macron took aim at the UK’s mass vaccination programme and decision to administer as many first doses as possible.
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation agreed to increase the interval between doses from 28 days to three months in order to increase the number of people given protection.
Mr Macron claimed vaccines would not work if both shots were not administered with the four week period.
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He said: “If we look at the strategy of the UK – I’m not the commentator on others’ strategy, but we have to be very careful right now in how we compare vaccine strategies.
“The goal is not to have the biggest number of first injections.
“When you have all the medical agencies and the industrialists who say you need two injections for it to work, a maximum of 28 days apart, which is the case with Pfizer/BioNTech.”
He added: “And you have countries whose vaccine strategy is to only administer one jab, I’m not sure that it’s very serious.
“When I listen to the scientists who say we accelerate the mutations with only one injection because the virus adapts… we are lying to people when we tell them they’ve been vaccinated by getting one injection of a vaccine that consists of two injections.”
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On Tuesday, Scientists at the University of Oxford debunked his theory following a ground-breaking study.
They found between day 22 and day 90 after the first dose of the vaccine was administered, its efficiency was 76 percent.
The paper added the vaccine efficacy was 82.4 percent with 12 or more weeks to the second dose being administered.
Professor Andrew Pollard, chief investigator of the Oxford Vaccine Trial, and study co-author, said: “It also supports the policy recommendation made by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation for a 12-week prime-boost interval, as they look for the optimal approach to roll out, and reassures us that people are protected from 22 days after a single dose of the vaccine.”