France lifts restrictions on AstraZeneca vaccine for over-65s

2 March 2021, 00:00

France will allow over-65s to have the AstraZeneca vaccine
France will allow over-65s to have the AstraZeneca vaccine. Picture: PA

By Maddie Goodfellow

France will start allowing some people over 65 to receive the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine, after initially restricting its use to younger populations because of limited data on the drug's effectiveness.

While France first authorised the vaccine only for medical professionals under 65, Health Minister Olivier Veran said that it will soon be available to people over age 50 with health problems that make them vulnerable to Covid-19.

Mr Veran also said that people who have had the virus in recent months will only need one injection of the two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines.

France's High Authority for Health has argued that recent infection acts as partial protection against the virus, so a second dose is not essential.

France has used less than a quarter of the 1.1 million AstraZeneca vaccines it received as of Friday, according to government data.

However, its vaccine campaign is expected to pick up in the coming days as more doses are delivered to family doctors and pharmacies.

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It comes as Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that PHE data shows receiving a single shot of either the Oxford-AstraZeneca or Pfizer-BioNTech Covid vaccine reduces the chance of needing hospital treatment by "more than 80 per cent."

Speaking at a Downing Street press conference, the Health Secretary hailed the "extremely good news", while urging people to continue to stick to the rules and "not to blow it now".

Mr Hancock said: "In terms of real world data, the number of new cases is falling, but the rate of decline has slowed. This shows how we all need to keep sticking to the rules. Let's not blow it now."

However, the number of hospitalisations is falling faster. And even better, among the age groups who were vaccinated first, so the older age groups, the fall in hospitalisations is faster than in the younger age groups who are yet to get a jab.

"This is a sign that the vaccine is working."

The data, from Public Health England, is based on the number of people over 80 testing positive for Covid and ending up in hospital as a result.

England's deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam also welcomed the new data on vaccines.

He said data on individuals aged 70 and over shows that for both Pfizer and the Oxford/AstraZeneca jabs there is vaccine effectiveness against illness of approximately 60% after one dose.

Prof Van-Tam said the data shows the vaccines are reducing the likelihood of hospital admission by 80% after one dose.Data for the Pfizer vaccine shows the likelihood of mortality is reduced by 85% in over-70s, he added.

He told the Downing Street briefing that the data "gives us those first glimpses of how, if we are patient, and we give this vaccine programme time to have its full effect, it is going to hopefully take us into a very different world in the next few months".

Encouraging people to continue to come forward for their first and second doses, he added: "We have to be patient. We have to push on with the vaccine programme."