AstraZeneca shot draws long volunteer queue in France
An estimated 1.4 million French residents have signed up to a waiting list to receive an AstraZeneca jab at a pharmacy, a survey released this week has shown, as the country promotes the use of the vaccine, which has met widespread popular scepticism in European countries.
Only people older than 55 are eligible for the waiting list, while those over 75-year, or with health problems making them more vulnerable, will be at the front of the queue, a spokesperson for the French health ministry said.
It was not immediately clear when the waiting list had been opened, but it was the first time that France's national union of pharmacies (Uspo) had conducted a survey amongst pharmacists and published the results.
The question whether a waiting list allowing volunteers to take the slots of others not showing up for a vaccination appointment has also come up in Luxembourg, whose vaccine roll-out is one of the slowest in Europe.
But Health Minister Paulette Lenert has said such plans do not yet exist.
“It would not be a response to the problem because the problem is the quantity of vaccine”, Lenert told the Luxembourg Times two weeks ago. The ministry sets up more an appointments than there is vaccine available, and “it might be worth thinking about this at a later time”, Lenert said.
Pharmacies can only administer the AstraZeneca vaccine because it does not need to be kept at ultra-low temperatures, unlike the Pfizer-BioNtech and Moderna jabs.
Uptake of AstraZeneca in France is low, as just 55% of available doses have been given out, while the corresponding numbers for the Pfizer-BioNtech and Moderna jabs are 89% and 93% respectively, data from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) show. In Luxembourg, only one in three available AstraZeneca shots have been administered.
Trust in the Astrazeneca vaccine has dropped sharply in France, as it has elsewhere in Europe, after governments temporarily suspended it, with 61% viewing it as “unsafe” compared to 23% considering it “safe”, down from 43% and 33% respectively, according to a YouGov poll published on Monday.
This week's Uspo poll showed that 67% of pharmacies reported instances of patients rejecting it. France was one of the countries alongside Luxembourg and Germany that halted the use of Astrazeneca following concerns that it could cause blood clotting. It resumed handing out the drug after the European Medicines Agency found no link with an increased risk of thrombosis.
Even before that, French President Emmanuel Macron had called Astrazeneca “quasi ineffective” in people older than 65 and initially restricted its use to younger people, citing a lack of trial data for older age groups. Currently, however, the jab is only available in France to people older than 55.