French president Emmanuel Macron has been forced into an embarrassing climbdown and admitted that he would take the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine if offered to him, less than a month after telling French citizens that it “doesn’t work”.
Macron publicly questioned the jab’s effectiveness back in January during the row over procurement of the vaccine by the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker to the European Union.
“The real problem with AstraZeneca is just that it doesn’t work as expected, because there we have very little information,” said Macron at the time.
“Today, everything suggests that it is almost ineffective for those over 65, and some say over 60.”
The wildly inaccurate and now disproven claims which were also echoed in the German press have resulted in a considerable amount of reluctance among EU citizens to have the jab.
In an attempt to allay the fear which originated from Paris and Berlin over the efficacy of the vaccine, Macron affirmed on Thursday that he would accept the AstraZeneca jab when his turn to be inoculated comes.
“If that’s the vaccine that’s offered to me, I will take it, of course,” he said.
France’s vaccine chief Alain Fischer went further to try and reverse the negative perception the vaccine now has across the continent, insisting the jab is safe and effective.
“This is a very good vaccine and should be used by everyone who is offered it, without hesitation”, Mr Fischer told a news conference, claiming the AstraZeneca vaccine had an “unjustifiably bad press” and that the latest data showed it to be “at least as effective” as the Pfizer and Moderna alternatives also authorised for use in the bloc.
Paris and Berlin’s negative spin for a jab the Commission has spent hundreds of millions buying up for its citizens, has come back to bite them.
France’s poorly performing roll-out is being squeezed on both sides: not enough supply thanks to the EU’s bad purchasing scheme, and low demand due to members of the public refusing the Oxford jab. There are widespread reports of health workers declining the injection.
German tabloid BILD recently reported that 1.2 million AstraZeneca jabs remain unused in the country with the jab still proving to remain unpopular.
“The vaccination booths are ready, the vaccine is there and so are the vaccination teams,” said epidemiologist Karl Lauterbach in response to reports vaccination centres only giving out the Oxford jab are being avoided. At one centre in Berlin, just 200 people a day are turning up for their appointments out of almost 4,000.