France allows Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine for people over 65

The French authority for health (HAS) will recommend the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine for people of all ages, including people aged 65 and over, HAS announced Tuesday.

The non-binding recommendation confirms Health Minister Olivier Véran’s announcement Monday that the jab will be made available to seniors, enabling people between 65 and 74 to get vaccinated.

In a statement, the HAS, which initially recommended the vaccine only for people under 65, cited “encouraging” preliminary results of a large-scale study on the impact of the vaccine on COVID-19 hospitalizations among the Scottish population as the reason for its change.

That study showed the “rate of protection from the … vaccine was equal to that of Pfizer’s,” according to Alain Fischer, the head of France’s vaccine strategy orientation council, in comments last Thursday.

The decision will likely speed up France’s slow vaccination campaign. As of February 27, just 4.38 doses per 100 people were administered overall. Only about 273,000 doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine have been used out of a stock of 1.7 million doses.

Some have argued that French President Emmanuel Macron’s earlier comments that the vaccine appeared “quasi-ineffective” in the older age groups may have contributed to the lower uptake.

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