Its approval rating plummeted in a matter of months: the AstraZeneca vaccine is not all rage in France. At the beginning of the vaccination campaign, when doses of Covid-19 vaccine were rare and a third wave was swelling, AstraZeneca was a certain hope.
It was then used very often: half of the 200,000 doses of vaccine injected every day came from an AstraZeneca vial. In June, this product now represents only 0.6% of first doses given daily.
How to explain such a turnaround?
Quickly after being brought to the market, side effects are reported to health authorities and specifically cases of thrombosis, scaring decision-making bodies and the general public. In France, to date, 47 cases of “atypical” thrombosis have been reported in about 4 million injections.
Faced with the still poorly-assessed threat, the government stops AstraZeneca use for three days – from March 16 to 18. The European Medicines Agency studies the file and concludes the risk – even though real – is too weak and does not put the benefit/risk ration into question. Scientific experts claim the vaccine can be used in people over 55 years of age.
Although the government and doctors have been repeating over and over again it was safe, the French no longer trust AstraZeneca and cancel their vaccination appointments to not get the product. As a result, the AstraZeneca use curve drops: Le Parisien writes that lately, only 2,000 people get a first dose of this vaccine per day.
Academy of Medicine member François Bricaire is sorry the side effects curbed vaccination this hard. “It did not get good press at first, and it is less effective against variants, but thromboses have been the mortal blow”, he explains.
There is still a three-million dose stock of AstraZeneca in France. A part of these doses will be used to give second shots to people over 55 years old who have been vaccinated with the Swedish-British vaccine. But it will not be enough to empty the stock.
The government planned to donate 500,000 vaccines to the Covax action used to distribute doses to countries the least developed struggling to immunize their people. “Our doses currently in the fridge expire in July. We need to keep the necessary number of vials for second shots, with a small excess just in case, and send it all to Covax quickly”, GP Michaël Rochoy tells Le Parisien.
The European Union did not place another order to the pharmaceutical group. The European Commission even sued the laboratory. The EU accuses AstraZeneca of rerouting doses of vaccine to other countries, and break the delivery deal they signed.