Emmanuel Macron sparks fury with 'untrue' claim Oxford vaccine is 'ineffective'
French president Emmanuel Macron has weighed into the UK-EU vaccine row by questioning whether the British-made jab that sparked the crisis even works.
Amid a huge argument over where precious doses of the jabs should be distributed, Mr Macron told reporters the AstraZeneca candidate appears to be ‘ineffective’ among the over 65s.
Despite the EU battling to receive 80,000 doses of the vaccine, Mr Macron said he thought it was ‘quasi-ineffective.’
He was speaking before the EU’s regulator – the European Medicines Agency – gave approval for the jab to be used on all adults and admitted he had no new data to back up his assertions.
His comments have been criticised by the man who led the vaccine trials, Sir John Bell, as ‘very unfair and also untrue.’
The French president said there was ‘very little information’ available for the vaccine developed by the British-Swedish company and Oxford University.
‘Today we think that it is quasi-ineffective for people over 65,’ he told reporters adding: ‘What I can tell you officially today is that the early results we have are not encouraging for 60 to 65-year-old people concerning AstraZeneca.’
France’s own health authority will make decision on whether to use vaccine at the start of next week, according to sources.
‘I don’t have any data, and I don’t have a scientific team of my own to look at the numbers,’ Mr Macron acknowledged.
In response, Sir John, the regius chair of medicine at Oxford, told the Telegraph: ‘This statement suggests he has not looked at the clinical or immunogenicity data which shows it is excellent in the over-65s.’
He added: ‘There is ample evidence of strong antibody responses in this age group and you can be certain they will respond to the vaccine.
‘Perhaps he [Mr Macron] is trying to reduce demand for the vaccine for some reason.’
Meanwhile, Germany’s vaccine commission on Friday maintained its advice against using AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccines on older people.
‘The reason is because there is currently insufficient data on the effectiveness of the vaccines on people above 65 years old,’ said the commission known as STIKO.
AstraZeneca has told the EU it will only be able to deliver 31,000 doses in the first three months of the year because of problems in the supply chain.
Brussels has demanded doses of the vaccine manufactured in British plants be diverted to the continent, as member states were forced to pause or delay their rollouts.
The EU has also imposed a ‘vaccine export transparency mechanism’ until the end of March to control vaccine shipments to nations outside the bloc.
It seeks to ensure that any exporting company based in the EU first submits its plans to national authorities.
The EU had initially indicated that it would trigger the Northern Ireland protocol as part of the move to stop vaccine supplies entering the UK via the ‘back door’ but it has since reversed this decision.
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