The pace of France’s Covid-19 vaccination programme is too slow to prevent new lockdown measures being needed to halt a third wave of hospitalisations, top scientists say as the EU faces a growing inoculation crisis.
France and Germany are among the countries whose vaccine drives are foundering as their citizens refuse to take the Oxford/AstraZeneca shot after Emmanuel Macron and officials across the EU questioned its effectiveness.
After EU politicians lashed out at AstraZeneca as they tried to save face in a row over procurement last month, health officials are now changing their tune and begging European citizens to take the jab as more supplies arrive and real-world studies provide further proof that the vaccine works.
Now experts at the prestigious Institut Pasteur say France’s current pace of around 100,000 jabs a day is ‘insufficient’ to rein in the effects of the highly contagious UK variant which is spreading rapidly in France.
They say the country faces a new wave of severe cases in April and May – at the same time the UK expects to ease its restrictions after all over-50s have been vaccinated.
While infections in the UK will likely also rise when restrictions are lifted, hospital cases should remain low after the successful vaccination drive. It is hoped that the vaccine’s reduction of transmission will also limit a UK resurgence of the virus.
But the third wave of hospital cases expected in France could be reduced by up to a third if the nation can catch up to the UK and start vaccinating more than 400,000 people per day.
France is now aiming to ‘rehabilitate’ the AstraZeneca jab after Macron wrongly claimed it was ‘quasi-ineffective’ in older people.
Macron was challenged by EU leaders over his comments, it emerged today – after Ursula von der Leyen sought to boost support for the jab by saying that she herself would be willing to take it.
Meanwhile a German vaccine chief said that more than a million AstraZeneca doses were lying in storage amid public reluctance to take the jab, despite real-world studies showing it is effective.
‘We are working quite hard at this point trying to convince people to accept the vaccine,’ Thomas Mertens told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme – after his own panel refused to recommend the vaccine for over-65s.
A Berlin official has even called for unused doses to be given to the 3,000 homeless people living in the city’s emergency accommodation.