PARIS (Reuters) – A 60-year-old recovering from breast cancer, Paris resident Nadine Roger is at high-risk from COVID-19 and wants to get vaccinated as soon as possible. Yet when she was offered the vaccine manufactured by AstraZeneca she turned it down.
“The AstraZeneca (shot) frightens me,” she said. Roger, a medical technician, said she would wait instead for the shot made by U.S. firm Johnson & Johnson, which has not yet been approved by European regulators.
According to the most recent data made available by the French health ministry, for the end of February, France was using 24% of its AstraZeneca doses, compared with 82% for vaccines made by Pfizer/BioNTech and 37% for the Moderna shot.
That is partly due to logistical bottlenecks, but also because some French people don’t trust the AstraZeneca shot – despite multiple scientific studies that indicate it is safe and effective – according to interviews Reuters conducted with eight people involved in France’s vaccine rollout.
They said some of those offered the vaccine were worried about side-effects, sceptical it was effective against new variants of COVID-19, and confused by shifting evidence on how well it works for older people.
The AstraZeneca vaccine had a bumpy genesis.
European regulators recommended it not be used for people over 65, citing a lack of data. French President Emmanuel Macron was quoted as saying the shot was “quasi-ineffective” and the French regulator called on hospitals to stagger inoculations of their staff after side effects led frontline workers to call in sick.
“All that sent out the wrong signal to health workers, but also the rest of the population,” said Jacques Battistoni, head of the largest general practitioners’ union in France.