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Macron claims Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid vaccine ‘quasi-ineffective’ on older people

French president criticises UK’s rollout strategy amid row over EU delay

Peter Stubley
Friday 29 January 2021 21:36 GMT
Related video: EU imposes export controls on Covid-19 vaccines
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Emmanuel Macron claimed that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was "quasi-ineffective" for over-65s, just hours before it was approved for use on all adults in the EU.

In a press briefing in Paris on Friday afternoon, the French president said the jab “doesn't work the way we were expecting to”.

He also appeared to criticise the UK’s vaccine rollout strategy, which has so far resulted in more people being given a first dose than any other European country.

Mr Macron said: “The goal is not to have the biggest number of first injections ... When you have all the medical agencies and the industrialists who say you need two injections for it to work, a maximum of 28 days apart, which is the case with Pfizer/BioNTech; and you have countries whose vaccine strategy is to only administer one jab, I’m not sure that it’s very serious.”

His comments, reported by Politico, are likely to reignite tensions between the EU and UK over the effectiveness of the Oxford vaccine, after German media reports wrongly suggested its efficacy for those aged over 65 could be as low as 8 per cent.

Germany’s vaccine committee later concluded that a lack of sufficient data meant the jab should only be given to people aged 18-64.

However, on Friday afternoon the European Medicines Agency said its scientific experts considered that the vaccine can be used safely for the elderly even though “there are not yet enough results in older participants (over 55 years old) to provide a figure for how well the vaccine will work in this group”.

The EMA added that “protection is expected, given that an immune response is seen in this age group and based on experience with other vaccines”.

Meanwhile, the European Commission confirmed that it was imposing export controls on vaccines made in the EU following a row with AstraZeneca over deliveries. The UK-based pharmaceutical firm has reduced its promised deliveries of 80 million doses by the end of March to 31 million doses.

Under the controls, member states will be able to block the export of vaccines made in their countries, including supplies of the Pfizer/BioNTech jab produced in Belgium.

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