EU vaccine crisis: French experts warn jabs are going too slowly to avoid a third Spring wave of coronavirus – and Germany is sitting on 1.2MILLION Oxford vaccines people refuse to take
- Institut Pasteur experts say vaccine pace is ‘insufficient’ to balance British strain
- But third-wave hospital cases could be slashed if France matches UK jab pace
- Emmanuel Macron was challenged by EU leaders for raising AstraZeneca doubts
PUBLISHED: 09:45 GMT, 25 February 2021 | UPDATED: 10:07 GMT, 25 February 2021
The pace of France’s Covid-19 vaccination programme is too slow to prevent new lockdown measures being needed to halt a third wave of hospitalisations, top scientists say.
Experts at the prestigious Institut Pasteur say the current pace of around 100,000 jabs a day is ‘insufficient’ to rein in the effects of the highly contagious UK variant.
But the third wave of hospital cases could be reduced by up to a third if France can catch up to the UK and start vaccinating more than 400,000 people per day.
France has stocks of the Pfizer, Moderna and Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines and is aiming to ‘rehabilitate’ the Oxford jab after Emmanuel Macron wrongly claimed it was ‘quasi-ineffective’ in older people.
Macron was challenged by EU leaders over his comments, it emerged today – after Ursula von der Leyen sought to boost support for the jab by saying that she herself would be willing to take it.
Meanwhile a German vaccine chief said that more than a million AstraZeneca doses were lying in storage amid public reluctance to take the jab, despite real-world studies showing it is effective.
‘We are working quite hard at this point trying to convince people to accept the vaccine,’ Thomas Mertens told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme – after his own panel refused to recommend the vaccine for over-65s.
France is also among the countries to have denied the AstraZeneca jab to older people because of the small sample size of over-65s in clinical trial data.
But real-world data from Scotland has shown the AstraZeneca shot cutting hospital cases by 94 per cent among the mainly elderly people who have had it so far.
The French health ministry has admitted that the jab has an ‘image deficit’ with only around 107,000 doses of it administered so far.
The Vaccine Champions in France Defying Death Threats to Convert Anti-Vaxxers
BY VIVIENNE WALT FEBRUARY 17, 2021 8:49 AM EST
The threat was clear: Pinned to the door of a medical clinic in the small town of Fronton in south-west France in late January, the page said health professionals who discuss COVID-19 on television were turning the country into a giant drug dispensary, and that “silencing them is a matter of public health.” Underscoring the message at the bottom was a chilling drawing: Two nooses.
To the clinic physician Dr. Jerôme Marty, this was just one more nerve-racking moment during months of harassment leveled against him for supporting lockdowns, masking—and now vaccines. “People call me and say: ‘We are coming to your house, and we are going to skin you alive,’” says Marty, who as president of the country’s National Union of Independent Doctors has become a regular guest on French television. He says the threats have grown increasingly personal against himself and many other doctors who share similar views. “They post pictures of my home online,” he says.
In the race to vaccinate its populations, the European Union has fallen behind both the United States and the neighboring United Kingdom. As of Feb.14, the E.U. had administered 4.9 doses per 100 residents, vs 16 doses in the U.S. and 23.7 in the U.K. Blame for what has gone wrong can be assigned to any number of individuals and organizations, but one clearcut failure was the E.U.regulator’s sluggish effort to approve and purchase vaccines for its 27 nations.
Perhaps most striking of all has been the poor performance of France, which has long touted its first-rate public health. About 2.3 million French have so far been given a COVID-19 shot, out of 66 million people. That’s far less than the 15.3 million people in the U.K., with roughly the same population.
There is one major factor that helps explain the snail’s pace of France’s vaccine program: Widespread distrust, and even hostility, among millions of French towards vaccines in general, but specifically towards the new generation of shots currently being rolled out. In an October poll of 18,000 people across the world, France was the most reluctant out of 15 countries to get a hypothetical COVID-19 vaccine, with only 54% of French willing to be immunized, were a shot to be approved. Anti-vaccine sentiment has eased worldwide as the drugs have been rolled out—but only slightly in France. In a Kantar Public poll this month, over one-third (37%) of French said they would definitely or probably not get vaccinated, compared with 26% in the U.S., 23% in Germany and just 14% in the U.K. The strongest anti-vaccine feeling in France was among those in their 20s.
Among the French skeptics, a core of hardline anti-vaxxers has now seized on the pandemic as its line in the sand. In numerous interviews with TIME over the past week, doctors, scientists, and pro-vaccine activists describe months of relentless trolling and verbal abuse. No health professional has been physically attacked, yet. But the rise in extremist views is unmistakable. “We have seen for the past year the growth of a movement of people who are anti-mask, anti-vaccine, they see it as a conspiracy,” says Marty, the doctor in Fronton in south-west France. “They have begun to threaten doctors.”
European Healthcare Workers Are Refusing AstraZeneca Vaccine Over Efficacy Concerns
I’m a British-born reporter covering breaking news for Forbes.
Updated Feb 22, 2021, 10:03am EST
Thousands of healthcare workers are refusing to take the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine over concerns about side effects and efficacy, with some arguing that they should be prioritized for the more effective doses from Pfizer and Moderna.
Multiple unions representing healthcare workers in Europe have said many of their members don’t want the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca PLC, which was found to be 62% effective at reducing symptomatic disease in its trials and 81% effective in later data when the two doses were spaced out longer (competitors showed 90% efficacy).
A group representing 3,000 doctors in Italy wrote a letter to the Italian government last week demanding that “private doctors and dentists be inoculated with mRNA vaccines” like those developed by Moderna and Pfizer and BioNTech, as opposed to AstraZeneca’s “since there is evidence they are more effective.”
“Medical staff need the most effective vaccine,” Jerome Marty, the president of a French doctor’s union told The Wall Street Journal in an interview earlier this week, adding: “We need to keep the AstraZeneca vaccine for healthy and young people.”
Hesitancy has also been catalyzed by reports from some hospitals that the side effects from the AstraZeneca vaccine appear stronger than those caused by the Moderna and Pfizer doses, prompting France to issue guidance to stagger giving the shot and two regions in Sweden to pause vaccinations.
These temporary side effects—which include headaches and fevers that typically fade within a day or so—have also been linked to Moderna and Pfizer’s vaccines, and AstraZeneca emphasized that it has not confirmed any serious adverse side effects to date.
“Currently, the reactions reported are as we would expect based on the evidence gathered from our clinical trial programme,” a spokesperson for AstraZeneca said in a statement to Forbes. “Our vaccine has been authorised in more than 50 countries across four continents. There have been no confirmed serious adverse events associated with vaccination with COVID 19 vaccine AstraZeneca.”
Roughly a dozen European countries have limited the AstraZeneca vaccine for people over 65 due to a lack of data about its efficacy among older people. Nonetheless, this vaccine candidate (which has not yet been approved in the U.S.) proved 100% effective at protecting against severe illness and death from Covid-19 in trials, just like its two competitors.