France resumes AstraZeneca vaccination – but for over-55s only

France's health authority on Friday recommended that only people aged 55 and over should be given the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine due to reports of blood clots, while giving the green light to resume its use after a brief suspension.

France resumes AstraZeneca vaccination - but for over-55s only
French PM Jean Castex, 55, receives the AstraZeneca vaccine on Friday. Photo: Thomas Coex/AFP

It said its recommendation was based on the fact that the reports of blood clots that had prompted its suspension in France and other European countries had only been seen in those aged under 55.

Prime Minister Jean Castex, himself aged 55, was given the vaccine on Friday to boost confidence in the jab after the European Medicines Agency ruled it was safe to use.

OPINION: European governments were cautious on AstraZeneca vaccines but they were neither stupid nor ‘political’

France was set to resume AstraZeneca vaccinations Friday afternoon.

The Haut autorité de Santé (HAS) is an advisory body, but health minister Olivier Véran tweeted that ‘the green light has been given for the resumption of vaccination with AstraZeneca for people aged 55 and over’ suggesting that the government will follow the HAS advice, as is usually the case.

The AstraZeneca vaccine had previously been used in France only for under 74-year-olds and had been a key part of the rollout via pharmacies and GPs to the 50-74-year-old age group of people with underlying health conditions.

Vaccine appointments had been paused since Tuesday and although they were restarting on Friday afternoon, the HAS recommendation makes it unclear what people aged between 50 and 55 who have an appointment should do.

“Age is the main risk factor that exposes people to develop severe forms of the disease,” said Dominique Le Guludec, president of the HAS, during a press briefing.

“We have alternatives for younger people,” she also said, referring to Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines, which are already in use in France in vaccine centres. Johnson & Johnson’s product is also expected to be available from mid-April.

For people under 55 years of age who have already received a dose of vaccine, the HAS “will very soon take a position on the administration of a second dose”.

AstraZeneca has largely been used in France on healthcare workers, in addition to the GP programme which started in early March.

Castex had the jab live on television in a bid to bolster public confidence in the AstraZeneca injection.

“I did not feel a thing even though I am a little squeamish,” the premier said at a hospital outside Paris.

He is 55 and has no underlying health conditions so had not previously qualified, but he said his goal is to “reassure” the population, while many doctors fear that confidence is waning.

For the moment, a little more than 1.4 million people have received a first dose of AstraZeneca vaccine in France, although it is not known how many of them are under 55.

Member comments

  1. Every vaccine, and every medication, and everything you ever do in life carry a tiny risk. The rate of this issue for AstraZeneca vaccine is so low, that in normal times it wouldn’t even be listed on an included brochure in the packaging…

    But because mass media and politicians are incompetent in understanding risks and statistics, we are binning a perfectly good vaccine and instead going to stay in lockdowns for years to come. Yaaaay.

    1. Excellent comment Futurix.
      Where are the thumbs up and down buttons in this new (WEAK) comments section?

    2. No we are not going stay in lock down forever, especially the younger people are not going to accept that. Ones the old and vunerable are vaccinated no reason not to open up, people can choose their own private lock down if they wish so. Lock downs in itself are killers, look at lonelyness in the old, mental health, cancer death (because treatments stop or people are too afraid to go to hospital), child development (I do not believe it is good for kids not to see facial expressions) A few healthy young ones dropped dead after astra Zeneca, that is apparently acceptable because it will save many lives (just a shame if it is you), so a few covid deaths after lock downs are lifted are fine too. After all we do not forbid cars, bead toasters or ladders! I wonder what the real numbers are, they have been counting deaths very creatively!

  2. I got it the other day and I am 51- the clots cases were 37 in 17 million, the chances are VERY small. Do not take paracetamol or less ibuprofen for that.

    1. I agree small chance, the other small point is that beside the risk of dropping dead when you are young and healthy, there are also no guarantees given about long term side effects. If you are 80 with only a few years left if lucky, this risk is totally acceptable, when you are 20 with 60 years left, I think the issue is more complicated than ‘just be a good citizen and do what the goverment wants you to do’.

  3. Is it true that a man was struck by lightning the day after receiving an Oxford jab. If it is, surely the vaccine should be banned completely.
    Another geriactric.

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Health insurance: France to roll out smartphone version of carte vitale

France has begun a trial in eight areas of a smartphone version of the 'carte vitale' - the card required to access the French public health system - with the eventual aim of rolling out the app across the country. Here's how it will work.

Health insurance: France to roll out smartphone version of carte vitale

What is happening?

France is making changes to the carte vitale – the crucial card that allows residents of France to access the public health system. If you don’t have the card – here’s how to get it.

The new project involves replacing the physical card with a virtual one that is stored on your smartphone via an app.

The French government is beginning a pilot project in eight départements with the intention of expanding the system to cover the whole country in 2023.

The trial areas are; Bas-Rhin, Loire-Atlantique, Puy-de-Dôme, Saône-et-Loire, Sarthe, Seine-Maritime, Rhône and Alpes-Maritimes and the trials are voluntary for people who want to sign up. 

How does it work?

At present, the app is only available to those living in the trial areas mentioned above, and it can only be used by people who are already registered in the French system and have a carte vitale. It is not an alternative to the current registration process. 

If you have a carte vitale, however, you can transfer it onto your phone, which saves you having to remember to carry your card around.

You first download the app MonCV and then begin the sign-up process. In order to do this you will need your current card and social security number and will also have to go through a series of security steps including uploading a scan of your passport or ID card and then making a ‘short film’ of your face in order to verify your identity. 

Once registered, you can then use it at the doctor, pharmacist, vaccine centre or any other situation in which you previously used your carte vitale. You will be able to either show a QR code to scan, or scan your phone using NFC technology (similar to Metro and train smartphone tickets, which works even if your phone is turned off or out of battery).

Can you still use a card version?

Yes. If you don’t own a smartphone or are just not a fan of apps you can continue to use the physical card with no changes.

What does this change for healthcare access?

It doesn’t change anything in terms of your access to healthcare or paying for it, but some extra functions are set to be added to the app once the scheme is rolled out nationwide.

The first one is to link up your carte vitale with your mutuelle (complementary insurance) if you have it, so you don’t need to show extra proof from your insurance company in order to get full reimbursement.

The second is to add a ‘trusted person’ to your carte vitale, allowing them to use your card to, for example, pick up a prescription for you or to allow grandparents to take children to medical appointments (normally children are included on their parents’ card). 

Is this replacing the biometric carte vitale? 

You might remember talk earlier this year of a ‘biometric’ carte vitale, in which people would have to register biometric details such as their fingerprints in order to keep using their carte vitale.

This seems to have now been kicked into the long grass – it was a parliamentary amendment to a bill proposed by the centre-right Les Républicains party and was intended to combat prescription fraud.

Experts within the sector say that the costs and inconvenience of making everyone register their biometric details and get a new card far outweigh the costs of prescription fraud and the idea seems to have been put on the back burner for now.