Why France is no longer using Moderna for Covid booster jabs

Over 65s, medical professionals and vulnerable people are among those eligible to receive a third Covid jab but only the Pfizer vaccine will be used

19 October 2021

France’s health authority has decided to temporarily stop recommending Moderna’s Covid vaccine for use as a booster jab Pic: Giovanni Cancemi / Shutterstock

France is to stop using the Moderna vaccine and only use Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine to administer Covid booster jabs, following an announcement from the Haute Autorité de santé (HAS). 

Currently, those eligible for a booster jab in France are (list not exhaustive):

  • People over 65
  • Medical professionals
  • People at risk of serious forms of Covid (including those with diabetes and obesity issues)
  • People who are severely immunocompromised and their close friends and family
  • People who received one dose of the Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) vaccine are eligible to receive a booster vaccine dose in France.

You can see a full list at this link (in French).

The HAS wrote in a statement on Friday (October 15) that it recommended using Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine for booster doses in a decision given on October 6, without ruling out the use of Moderna’s vaccine, which uses similar technology. 

It has now stated that it will wait for the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to decide whether to give authorisation to use Moderna as a booster vaccine for people with normal immune systems. A decision is due at the end of October. 

The EMA recommended on October 4 giving booster shots of either Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccines to adults who have severely weakened immune systems, but has only authorised giving Pfizer-BioNTech booster shots to people with normal immune systems. 

In addition, in early October, Sweden and Finland suspended the use of Moderna's vaccine for those under 30, and Denmark and Norway strongly advised against its use for those under 18. 

Iceland has suspended the use of Moderna’s vaccine as a booster dose altogether. 

These measures were cited by HAS in its decision to recommend against using Moderna as a booster dose. 

It wrote that the vaccine could lead to a possible risk of inflammation of the myocardium, the heart muscle, and the pericardium, the membrane covering the heart. 

It added that most of these inflammations are benign and pass on their own, but medical advice is recommended if symptoms occur. 

HAS also stated that with Covid only spreading moderately in France and with the country having enough doses of Pfizer-BioNTech, it deems it prudent to wait for the decision of the EMA before recommending Moderna as a booster vaccine. 

No final decision has yet been made on whether France will roll out booster Covid doses to the general population.

In any case, the HAS recommends giving booster doses six months after the second dose of Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna or AstraZeneca and four weeks after the first and only dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. 

Related stories:

When will the 2021 French flu vaccination campaign begin?

Tests, masks, vaccines: Covid updates for France this week

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