France widens access to AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine to under-75s
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France is to allow people under 75 with existing health problems to get the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, expanding access beyond the previous recommended age limit of under 65 years due to efficacy concerns.
The reassessment is likely to help speed up France's vaccination campaign which many have criticised as too slow. As of Saturday, 4.55 million people had received at least one shot of an AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine.
That compares to 6.17 million in Germany and up to 20.9 million in Britain.
Health Minister Olivier Véran told France 2 television that raising the age limit would enable 2.5 million more people to get vaccinated in coming weeks.
People aged 75 and over would continue to get the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines only, Véran said.
When the AstraZeneca vaccine was approved for use by EU regulators this year, France and other countries including Germany, Italy and Austria said it should not be given to the elderly, citing a lack of sufficient data.
Already facing a daunting Covid vaccination challenge, French and German authorities are fighting to convince more people that a jab from the pharma giant AstraZeneca is just as effective as others https://t.co/bZMbDlzI7Y— AFP News Agency (@AFP) March 1, 2021
The country's top advisory body, Haute Autorite de la Sante, (HAS) had said at the time it would later review its position.
France utilisation rate the AstraZeneca jab stood at 24 percent as of Tuesday, according to the health ministry, well below a target set at 80-85 percent.
This compares with 82 percent for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and 37 percent for those made by Moderna.
Britain has been rolling out the AstraZeneca vaccine since January, beginning with the elderly and health workers, after approving its use for all adults.
In a briefing with journalists on Tuesday, HAS officials justified the change of position after a study conducted in Scotland covering 5.4 million people showed both the
Pfizer-BioNtech and Oxford-AstraZeneca shots were highly effective in preventing severe infections.
Among those aged 80 and over - one of the highest risk groups for Covid-19 - vaccination was associated with an 81 percent reduction in hospitalisation risk in the fourth week after a
first dose, when the results for both vaccines were combined.
"These are remarkable results, they enable us to move forward," the head of HAS, Dominique Le Guludec, told reporters.
Another study conducted by Public Health England reached similar conclusions.
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