Covid vaccine: Two thirds doubt France will hit targets

A new poll suggests the public is sceptical about the government’s vaccination timeline as debates continue over the AstraZeneca vaccine's effectiveness

11 February 2021
By Hannah Thompson

More than two thirds - 68% - of people in France doubt that all adults will be vaccinated by the end of the summer. This is despite government targets - and amid continued debate over vaccines for the over-65s.

The nationally-representative online poll questioned 1,003 people aged 18 or over, from February 9-10. Most were sceptical that the country would achieve the goal of vaccinating all adults by September 22, 2021 - the deadline promised by Emmanuel Macron himself.

Just under half (48%) of respondents said the summer goal would “probably not” be achieved, and 20% said it “certainly” would not. In contrast, 31% believe that the objective will be hit, including 25% saying “probably”, and 6% “certainly”.

Older people aged 50 and over were slightly less optimistic, with 71% saying the objective would not be hit. This compared with 61% of younger people aged 35 or under, said the poll by research firm Elabe, for news source BFMTV.

Health Minister Olivier Véran has said the country was aiming to have vaccinated 70 million people - most of the country - by August 2021, “if all of the ordered vaccines are approved by world and European health authorities”. 

Read more: France aims to roll out Covid jab to all by end of August

Vaccine debates

It comes as debate still surrounds the effectiveness of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

Yesterday, the World Health Organisation (WHO) officially recommended using the AstraZeneca vaccine for people aged 65 and over, and also in countries where other variants are more dominant, such as Brazil and South Africa.

The WHO’s Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE) said: “Taking the totality of available evidence into account, WHO recommends the vaccine for use in persons aged 65 years and older.

“We feel that the response of this [older] group cannot be any different from groups of a younger age.”

SAGE chair Dr Alejandro Cravioto also said: “There is no reason not to recommend its use even in the countries that have circulation of the variants.”

This is despite a small study by the University of Witwatersrand, South Africa, suggesting the AstraZeneca vaccine was much less effective against the South African variant and less effective in older people.

The AstraZeneca vaccine is thought to have a 70-90% effectiveness rate against severe forms of Covid-19, compared to the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, both of which have been found to have a 95% effectiveness rate.

But the AstraZeneca vaccine is less costly and more transportable than the other two, as it can be stored in normal refrigerators and does not need to be kept at very low (-70C) temperatures.

As so it is seen as a better option for mass campaigns in more countries and is a key part of the Covax system, the WHO’s campaign for equitable distribution of vaccines worldwide.

 

AstraZeneca in France

French health authority, the Haute Autorité de Santé (HAS), has approved the AstraZeneca vaccine, but has recommended that it be used - for now - only for people aged under 65, due to what it called a lack of data of its efficacy among older age groups.

This now runs contrary to the WHO recommendations.

Read more: AstraZeneca vaccine recommended for under 65s in France

France vaccine updates

As of the latest data from February 9, 1,990,860 people in France have received at least one dose of the two required for vaccination, and 366,002 have received both first and second doses, see VaccinTracker.fr

The country’s vaccination campaign started on December 27, 2020 and the government is aiming to give the first dose of a vaccine to between 2.4 million and 4 million people by the end of February. This should include all people aged 65-75 with additional risk factors, and then to all people aged 65 and over.

So far, it appears to be on track to reach this goal. Health Minister Olivier Véran even said this week that the country was ahead of schedule and that “between 3.5 million and 4 million people would have received at least one vaccine dose by the end of February”.

According to the current timetable, people aged 50-65 will be eligible for the vaccine in spring and by summer other adults should have had it, in order of priority.

Related stories

France Covid-19: Vaccines on track and no new lockdown

France Covid-19 vaccine campaign calendar

Covid-19 vaccine in France: Your questions answered

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