FRANCE has green lit the AstraZeneca jab for older people with underlying health issues in an embarrassing u-turn for Emmanuel Macron.
Health minister Oliver Veran announced the decision after Mr Macron had originally claimed there was not enough data on the age group to allow older people to use it.
The move – which will see those aged 65-74 with underlying health issues get the jab – comes after new data showed the effectiveness of the UK and Swedish-made vaccine.
This is a humiliating blow for the embattled French President who drew heavy fire after claiming the remedy was “quasi-ineffective” for the elderly.
Last night, Mr Véran told France Télévisions: “The Haute Autorité de Santé now considers as of today that all three vaccines that we have in France have a remarkable efficacy to protect people against the risk of severe forms of Covid-19.
“As a result, I can announce that from now on everyone aged 50 and above who have comorbidities such as diabetes, high blood pressure or a history of cancer can be vaccinated with AstraZeneca without any age limits.”
France’s vaccination programme, along with Germany’s, has been thrown into chaos as thousands have refused the remedy after Macron and Angela Merkel questioned its effectiveness.
The new study, which promoted France’s u-turn, shows a single shot of either the Oxford/AstraZeneca or Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine cuts the risk of serious illness by more than 80 per cent.
UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock claimed that the new data was “slightly better for the Oxford jab than for Pfizer”.
Jonathan Van-Tam, deputy chief medical officer for England, said: “I think in time the data emerging from the programme will speak for itself and other countries will doubtless be very interested in it.”
The results and Veran’s announcement could now increase pressure on Germany to authorise the jab for its over-65s.
The vaccine – together with the Pfizer jab – has been used with great success in the UK to bring increasingly widespread protection to the population against Covid-19.
On Friday more than 500,000 people were inoculated, bringing the total to almost 30 per cent of the adult population.
And 20 million Brits have now received the first dose of the vaccine, which is now helping to bring dramatic reductions to numbers of deaths and hospitalisations.
In Germany, 1.2million shots of the AstraZeneca vaccine are lying unused in storage after Merkel decided against using it on the country’s pensioners.
Carsten Watzl, of the German Society for Immunology, urged Merkel to re-think Germany’s stance on the jab.
He told BBC Radio 4: “I think Germany will also reverse course soon.
“In order for us to reach our vaccination goals we need people to get this vaccine.”
He also urged Merkel, 66, to have the jab live on television to prove it is safe.
This comes as chancellor said on Thursday she would not take the vaccine because she is too old, despite saying “it can be trusted.”
Merkel told FAZ that she was not eligible because German regulators have restricted the jab to under-65s.
“In addition to the particularly vulnerable and elderly, I think it is correct to first invite population groups who cannot keep a distance in their jobs to be vaccinated,” she said.
“A daycare educator, a primary school teacher cannot do that. These are the people who should get a turn before someone like me.”