Reader question: Now that there is more than one Covid vaccine available in France, will I get to choose which one I get?
Short answer: Unlikely
Two vaccines have already been approved for use in France, the ones developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. A third, developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, has been sent for approval by the European Medicines Agency with a decision expected on January 29.
By the end of the year, a total of six different vaccines could be available in France, taking into account the contracts already signed between the EU and developers.
Read more about which vaccines France is expecting to receive this year and when here.
So, with options now available, will people be able to choose which vaccine they receive?
Currently, there is not much sense in choosing, Health Minister Olivier Véran has said.
“Today we have two valid vaccines. They are both messenger RNA vaccines with the same efficiency and the same application. There is no need to ask about choosing between them.”
While medically they are similar, logistically they are different.
The Moderna vaccine can be transported at lower temperatures and can remain stable in normal refrigerators for 30 days, as opposed to five days for the Pfzier-BioNTech vaccine.
This means in practice that both vaccines may not be available at the same time and at the same place, meaning there will be no choice for people getting vaccinated.
“The choice between the two vaccines will rest essentially on the availability of doses and logistical constraints,” the Haute Autorité de Santé (HAS), the agency responsible for drawing up recommendations for the different vaccines, stated at the beginning of January.
Health Minister Olivier Véran has already announced that the first 50,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine will be delivered to the most affected regions in the country.
A patient's choice?
One question is what happens if one or more vaccines prove to be more effective than others. However, a decision on this has not yet been made, health authority the Direction Générale de la Santé (DGS) told newspaper Le Figaro.
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, it has an average effectiveness of around 70% based on two studies.
The DGS has said that a decision on how the AstraZeneca vaccine is used will be made in due time and said that for the moment everyone will be vaccinated with either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.
Even as more vaccines are approved in France, it is unlikely that patients will be able to choose themselves which ones they receive, Dominique Le Guludec, president of HAS, said during a parliamentary session in December.
“I do not believe that the patient will be the best informed person to make a conscious choice about which vaccine is best for him or her,” he said in December.
Professor Daniel Flore, vice-president of the HAS technical commission on vaccines, agreed.
“If we had proof that all vaccines will be equivalent and they will all be available everywhere, why not let people choose, but clearly this will not be the case,” he said.
“Personally, I think that vaccination is a complicated subject. To say that people should be able to choose, I call that populism."