The French government says older people with pre-existing conditions can now get AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine, revising its stance on the issue.
“People affected by co-morbidities can be vaccinated with AstraZeneca, including those aged between 65 and 74,” the health minister said.
Last month France approved use of the vaccine for under-65s only, citing lack of data for older people.
The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is widely used across the UK, but several EU countries are still limiting it to the under-65s, including Germany.
The EU drugs regulator has approved it for all adults, but it is up to each member to set its own rollout policy.
Speaking on France 2 television late on Monday, French Health Minister Olivier Véran said people with pre-existing conditions could get the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine from GP surgeries, hospitals and “within days” from pharmacies.
Those aged over 75 will still be offered either Pfizer or Moderna jabs in a vaccination centre, he added.Studies have shown the AstraZeneca vaccine to be safe and effective
In January French President Emmanuel Macron said the AstraZeneca vaccine was “quasi-ineffective” for older age groups – a claim strongly rejected at the time by the UK officials and scientists.
But as more data has emerged, French health officials have tried to convince people that it is just as safe and effective as other Covid-19 vaccine, AFP news agency reports.
Just 273,000 AstraZeneca doses have been administered in France out of 1.7m received by the end of February, health ministry figures show.
Vaccine roll-outs in many EU countries have been hit by delays. About 3m people have so far received at least one dose in France – against more than 20m in the UK, which has roughly the same population.
Britain has been using the vaccine made by AstraZeneca, a UK-Swedish pharmaceutical firm, in its mass immunisation programme since December.
UK health officials say it provides “high levels of protection” for all ages.
No-one who received the Oxford vaccine in trials was admitted to hospital or became seriously ill due to Covid.
The vaccine is given via two injections to the arm, the second between 4 and 12 weeks after the first.