Covid France: Calls for AstraZeneca vaccines for over 65s

Seven million people aged 65 and over could become eligible for the AstraZeneca vaccine, as results from a new study lead to calls for changes in regulation

1 March 2021
A needle, a vial of vaccine and the AstraZeneca logo. Covid France: Calls for AstraZeneca vaccines for over 65sThe AstraZeneca vaccine is not currently being used to vaccinate people aged 65 and over in France
By Joanna York

People aged over 65 to 74 could become eligible for the AstraZeneca vaccine in France, as results from a new study indicate that the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines are equally effective.

The Scottish study by researchers from universities across Scotland and Public Health Scotland tracked 1.14 million people (21% of the Scottish population) who were given a first dose of the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines between December 8 and February 15. 

It found that the vaccines gave similar levels of protection, and reduced the risk of hospitalisation due to serious forms of the virus.

Among people over 80, both vaccines reduced the development of serious forms of the Covid-19 virus by 81% the study found.

Although the results of the study have not yet been peer-reviewed, newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche has reported that the French health ministry is now encouraging health body la Haute Autorité de la Santé to authorise use of the AstraZeneca vaccine for 65 to 74-year-olds in France.

 

Current health regulations state that the AstraZeneca vaccine cannot be used on people aged 65 and over due to a lack of data on its efficacy among older age groups.

The AstraZeneca vaccine is currently only being used for people aged 50 to 65 with health conditions that make them vulnerable to the virus (equivalent to two million people), and health workers aged under 65.

GPs began immunising these groups with the AstraZeneca vaccine last week, on February 25.

Read more: Covid jabs begin for priority patients aged 50 to 64

Health officials defend AstraZeneca vaccine

This comes as health officials have defended the AstraZeneca vaccine – which some have suggested is less effective than the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines – in recent days.

Professor Alain Fischer, head of the government vaccination strategy, said in a press conference on February 25: “There is no reason to think that the [AstraZeneca] vaccine is a second-rate vaccine.” 

He said the AstraZeneca vaccine gives 76% protection against the virus after a first dose, and 82% after the second, as long as the second dose happens 12 weeks after the first.

This gives the “same level of protection” as the Pfizer vaccine, he said.

Read more: AstraZeneca side-effects show jab is ‘working’

Pfizer most used vaccine in France

Figures from French vaccination monitor site Covid Tracker show that the Pfizer vaccine is by far the most used in France, with over 2.5 million first doses of the vaccine having been administered so far.

By contrast only 273,253 first doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine have been administered, and only 158,016 of the Moderna vaccine.

So far 2,967,937 people have received at least one dose of the vaccine in France, equivalent to 4.43% of the population.

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