Can I choose which type of Covid vaccine I get in France?

The AstraZeneca vaccine is less efficient than the other two approved in France and some minor side-effects have been reported but can patients choose between vaccines? 

9 March 2021
By Connexion journalist

Reader question: Can I choose which Covid-19 vaccine type I get? I have heard that there is a greater risk of getting side-effects from the AstraZeneca one.

Short answer: Currently, you cannot choose. 

It is not possible at the moment to choose which Covid-19 vaccination you receive due to organisational complexities and a limited supply of doses.

“You don't choose your vaccine. It would be too complicated to organise logistically,” TF1 journalist Justine Corbillon stated in an interview with LCI on February 4.

“Above all, don't worry. You can't be vaccinated with just any old vaccine: it must have been approved not only by the European Medicines Agency but also, in France, by the [health authority] Haute Autorité de Santé,” she added.

Three vaccine types have currently been approved for use in France. These are the Oxford/AstraZeneca, Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna.

Moderna’s vaccine is 94.1% effective, with results slightly decreasing in people aged over 65 (86.4%). The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is 95% effective and 94.7% effective in people aged over 65. 

As for the AstraZeneca vaccine, latest reports state it has an average effectiveness of around 76% after one dose, rising to 82% if the second dose is given 12 weeks later.

There have been reported side-effects in some patients vaccinated against Covid-19 in France.

These were analysed by the French medicines safety agency, which published a report on it at the end of February. Read more here.

Side-effects are usually very mild. 

French medical experts have said that this can be a sign that the vaccine is working

The French Health Ministry has set up a system for patients to report any adverse effects they experience after the jab. It is not necessary to report side-effects if they are minor. 

The ministry states that all vaccines approved for use in France, those of Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca, have gone through rigorous testing by European and French health authorities and have been found to be both efficient and safe. 

You can report any adverse reactions online at signalement.social-sante.gouv.fr (in French). It should only take about ten minutes.

Similarly, you can report side-effects to your doctor.

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.

The Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines are currently only being used publicly for people aged over 75, people with very serious existing medical conditions and people in care homes.

The AstraZeneca vaccine is available for everyone aged 50 to 74, beginning with those with certain medical conditions such as people with obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, respiratory failure, heart disease or those who have had cancer within the past three years,

Everyone aged 50 to 74, regardless of their health, will be able to get vaccinated from mid-April. By then, this age group will be eligible to receive any of the three vaccine types available in France. 

This means that if anyone in this age bracket decides to wait until after this date, they could receive a Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, or the AstraZeneca vaccine currently available to them. It is still not thought that a choice will be given.

Professor Daniel Floret, vice-president of the HAS technical commission on vaccines, has said he thinks it will be up to doctors or health professionals to decide.

“To say that people will be able to choose their vaccine seems utopian to me,” he said during an interview with LCI in November 2020.

Read more:

How France plans to speed up Covid vaccination rollout

New Covid vaccine may be authorised in France this week

Pharmacy, GP, clinic: Where to get a Covid jab in France

EU begins approval process for 50m doses of Russian vaccine

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