The French government has changed its stance on giving the AstraZeneca Covid vaccine to elderly people, after initially approving it for use on under-65s only.
The French health minister announced on Monday that anyone with pre-existing conditions can now be vaccinated with the AstraZeneca jab, “including those aged between 65 and 74”.
France was one of a handful of EU countries to approve the jab for use only among those under 65, citing apparent concerns about a lack of clinical trial data among this age group.
While the EU’s medicine regulator has approved the jab for use with all ages, individual countries are still able to set their own rollout policies, with France and Germany both opting to provide AstraZeneca vaccines to under-65s only.
However, studies now show that the vaccine is highly effective among elderly people, with recent data showing that it cuts the risk of serious infection among over-80s by 80 per cent.
Speaking to a group of reporters in Paris in January, French President Emmanuel Macron said: "The real problem on AstraZeneca is that it doesn’t work the way we were expecting it to. We’re waiting for the EMA [European Medicines Agency] results, but today everything points to thinking it is quasi-ineffective on people older than 65, some say those 60 years or older."
But, later the same day, the EMA did approve the AstraZeneca vaccine for use, noting that its experts “considered that the vaccine can be used in older adults”.
Last week, speaking after a European Council meeting, President Macron said he would take the vaccine.
He commented: “If this is the vaccine I'm offered, obviously I would take it."