AstraZeneca: Macron ‘was wrong’ about vaccine says expert
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Spain will resume use of the AstraZeneca vaccine this week, Health Minister Carolina Darias said on Monday after meeting regional health chiefs. But Ms Darias said the country would only extend the age limit beyond 65 if it is backed by a national health panel and there is enough supply. The EMA has deemed the vaccine safe to use on all age groups and said it was convinced the benefits outweighed the risks after reports of rare instances of blood clotting.
Spanish Health Minister Ms Darias told a news briefing: “The virus has not been defeated. It is in our reach to avoid a new uptick and therefore a fourth wave.”
This comes after a significant late-stage trial in the US, Chile and Peru found the vaccine was 79 percent effective in preventing symptomatic COVID-19.
Around a fifth (20 percent) of people taking part in the latest trial were aged 65 and over, compared to just 5.7 percent in the previous study.
This had led several European nations to step back from administering the AstraZeneca jab on older people.
Spain has been among the 27 remaining members of the EU to be worst hit by the ongoing pandemic, with some 3.2 million confirmed cases and more than 73,000 deaths.
On Monday, the infection rate had remained stable, with an average of 128 cases per 100,000 people over the last two days.
But the Spanish Health Ministry has warned there had been a recent change of trend that foresees an increase in infections.
Last week, France’s medical regulator approved the resumption of the AstraZeneca vaccine but in a break with guidance from the EMA, said it should only be given to people aged 55 and older.
The country’s National Authority for Health (HAS) has taken note of evidence that the rare cases of blood clotting mostly affected younger people, whose risk of dying from COVID-19 was lower than the elderly, and departed from the EMA’s line.
HAS said it would review its decision on this as soon as new data becomes available, adding guidance would soon be given to those aged under 55 who have already received a first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
But Marie-Louise Pradin, a doctor based in the northern city of Lille, has been left baffled by the advice from the HAS, and warned it could even lead to even more people refusing to take the jab.
She said: “When it comes to AstraZeneca, I have to say I sympathize with those who struggle to make sense of it all.
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“The reports of adverse effects don’t look good. But we, as professionals, know they are rare and not necessarily linked to the vaccine.
“Now, the HAS puts out this advice.
“I know many patients will just refuse to take it.”
French Prime Minister Jean Castrex had received the AstraZeneca jab on Friday in a bid to calm nerves throughout the country over the vaccine.
Jacques Battistoni, head of a general practitioners’ union, said: “The AstraZeneca vaccine is such an important part of our vaccination campaign.
“There is no other alternative. We can’t do without it.”
The UK has continued to demand the EU allow delivery of vaccines it has already ordered, with the threat over a possible export ban to Britain continuing to rise.
The EU has fallen way behind Brexit Britain in rolling out vaccines, with leaders throughout the bloc due to discuss a possible ban on vaccine exports to the UK at a crunch summit on Thursday.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke to the EU’s two most powerful leaders – German chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron – in a bid to clear the air over the possibility of an export ban.
Since the end of January, the EU has exported around 35 million doses, including 10 million to Britain, who have yet to export any at all, even though two UK facilities feature in the EU’s contract with AstraZeneca.
European Commission spokesman Eric Mamer told a news conference: “What our position is, is that we expect AstraZeneca to deliver the doses to the European Union that have been contracted.
“Contacts are ongoing with the company.”
He also confirmed the EU is also in talks with the UK on the issue, but did not provide further details.
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