Covid France: Vulnerable aged 65-74 to get AstraZeneca jab

The vaccine was previously only approved for under 65s due to lack of data for older people

2 March 2021
By Joanna York

People aged 65-74 with health issues that make them vulnerable to the Covid-19 will now be eligible for the AstraZeneca vaccine in France, Health Minister Olivier Véran said yesterday.

He told news programme France 2 that the vaccine would be available to this age group via GPs, in hospitals where they are being cared for, and “in pharmacies in a few days”.

He said: “If you are - for example - 68 years old and you’re diabetic, you can contact your GP from tomorrow [March 2] and say ‘I would like to be vaccinated’.

“When your GP has a dose of the [AstraZeneca] vaccine, they can vaccinate you.” 

Doctors must sign up each Wednesday to reserve doses of the vaccine from a local pharmacy – which Mr Véran advised all GPs to do this week. 

He said AstraZeneca vaccinations would become available in pharmacies when more doses were delivered to France.

While the health minister has advised people aged 65-74 with eligible health conditions to contact their GP to organise vaccination, your GP may get in touch with you directly if you fall into the right category. It's recommended that you check with your local GP.

Read more: Where can I book a vaccine appointment?

Read more: How do I know if my GP in France has Covid vaccine doses?

Heath body authorises AstraZeneca decision

The health minister’s announcement came as national health authority la Haute Autorité de Santé (HAS) approved the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine for vulnerable people in the 65-74 age group.

Previously, the vaccine had only been available to people in France aged 50-65 with health conditions that made them vulnerable to the virus, and health workers aged 65 and under.

Mr Véran said the change in rules would make the AstraZeneca vaccine available to an extra 2.5 million people in France.

People considered vulnerable include those with health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and cancer. A full list is available online in French.

Read more: Which high-risk people can now be vaccinated in France?

However, people aged 75 and over are still only eligible for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines in France, which are being given in vaccination centres. 

Authorities encourage use of AstraZeneca

The change in rules comes as medical authorities in France have been trying to reassure people of the safety and efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is seen by some as less effective than the Pfizer and Moderna alternatives.

After some health workers reported flu-like side effects from the AstraZeneca vaccine, Professor Alain Fischer, head of the French vaccination strategy, defended the jab.

In a tweet on February 25, he urged medical workers in France who had decided to stop using the AstraZeneca vaccine to “rethink their attitudes”.

He said: “People aged 50-64 who are vulnerable to the virus absolutely need this vaccine. We cannot wait.”

In his message, he also referenced results from a Scottish study by Public Health Scotland, which tracked 1.14 million first doses of the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines. 

It found both vaccines to be extremely effective at protecting against serious forms of the Covid-19 virus.

Professor Fischer said the HAS had been informed of the results, which indicated “the [AstraZeneca] vaccine is effective for people aged over 65”.

Following the change in rules announced yesterday, Mr Véran said the new rules meant the HAS “now considers all the vaccines we have in France – AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna – to be remarkably effective”.

Vaccination confidence growing in France

This comes as a new study* shows that 59% of people in France now say they have already been vaccinated against Covid-19, would definitely get vaccinated, or are likely to get vaccinated, compared with 45% of people who said the same in December.

The study, run by Kekst CNC, found that confidence in vaccines has grown throughout Europe with the UK, Germany and Sweden all reporting similar rises in uptake.

But, 60% stated the vaccine rollout in France was too slow. 

The only country surveyed where a majority of people thought the speed of the rollout was “just right” was the UK.

*The study was conducted in mid-February over 10 days, among 1,000 adults each in France, the UK, Germany, Japan, the US and Sweden. The margin of error is 3.3% in each country.

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Covid France: AstraZeneca side-effects show jab is ‘working’

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First report into side-effects of Covid vaccines in France

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