Undesirable side effects, effectiveness discussed: victim of a bad reputation, AstraZeneca’s vaccine against COVID-19 is shunned by populations in France and Germany, forcing the authorities to increase reassuring messages to avoid letting stocks run out of date .
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“If it is this vaccine that is offered to me, I will take it of course”: Thursday, the French President, Emmanuel Macron, was personally involved, praising a “safe” vaccine according to the criteria of the health authorities.
The remedy was previously not recommended for people over 65 in France, but the Minister of Health Olivier Véran announced Monday evening on the France 2 channel that its use would be extended to people aged 50 to 75 years with co-morbidities. Those aged 75 and over will continue to be vaccinated with the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine.
Same story with the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, who praised on February 25 a “vaccine in which we can have confidence” and called on the Germans not to sort between the different laboratories to be vaccinated.
On February 8, Olivier Véran had set an example by having himself injected a dose of the vaccine in front of the cameras.
This unanimity in favor of the Swedish-British vaccine reflects a form of emergency on both sides of the Rhine, where the two countries are struggling to sell their quantities of “AZ” vaccines received.
In France, only 270,000 doses (out of 1.6 million available) were administered, a ratio similar to that in Germany, which used 240,000 doses (out of 1.45 million).
It must be said that the “AZ” vaccine does not have very good press, firstly on the subject of a supposed lower efficacy in people over 65 and against certain variants.
The reviews don’t stop there. Undesirable side effects have been reported in several hospitals in France, with healthcare workers vaccinated “AZ”, mainly flu-like symptoms.
The phenomenon was serious enough that some hospitals, such as that of Saint-Lô in Normandy (north-west), suspend their vaccination. The operation of the establishment was affected by too many people on sick leave after the injection.
At this time, some countries like the United States have not yet validated AstraZeneca’s vaccine.
So, to avoid “AstraZeneca bashing”, as deplored by the president of the French general practitioners’ union, Jacques Battistoni, the authorities are embarking on a rehabilitation campaign.
“For deeply unjust reasons […], it is considered to be a little less effective or downright less effective than RNA vaccines such as the Pfizer vaccine or the Moderna vaccine, ”explains Alain Fischer, the French government’s Vaccine M. high efficiency.
In Scotland, a study showed that four weeks after the administration of a first dose, the risk of hospitalization was reduced by 85% with the vaccine from Pfizer-BioNTech and by 94% with that from AstraZeneca-Oxford, for example. compared to people who did not receive the vaccine.
Another study, conducted under real conditions in the United Kingdom among the over 70s by Public Health England and published on Monday, shows that Pfizer’s vaccine and that of AstraZeneca are “highly effective” after a first dose, particularly on hospitalizations.
The vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are based on messenger RNA technology, while that of “AZ” is viral vector, but it has the advantage of being cheaper and easier to store.
In Germany, several officials are alarmed about the potential waste of unused vaccines.
The head of government of Bavaria (south), Markus Soeder, demanded “that no dose of AstraZeneca is left behind or thrown away”. “Before it happens: vaccinate everyone who wants it. Every day counts ”, he claimed in the newspaper Bild.
“We should relax our strict regulations and vaccinate people, even if they are not among the priority people,” said the president of the Baden-Württemberg (southwest) region, Winfried Kretschmann.
The German Chancellor is due to meet with officials from each region on Wednesday to discuss the next steps in the fight against the pandemic.