SHARE
COPY LINK

FEATURE

IN NUMBERS: How many leftover doses of AstraZeneca’s Covid vaccine are there in France?

After reports over the weekend that a vaccine centre in Nice had to close early because no-one was willing to take the AstraZeneca vaccine that was being offered, here is a breakdown of vaccine use in France.

IN NUMBERS: How many leftover doses of AstraZeneca's Covid vaccine are there in France?
Photo: Joel Saget/AFP

Local media reported that the large ‘vaccinedrome’ in the Palais des expositions in Nice closed its doors several hours early on Saturday as hardly anyone turned up, despite having 4,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine available.

Benoit Huber from the Alpes-Maritime préfecture told Nice Matin that just 58 people turned up in the morning, leading the centre to close in the early afternoon.

So is this an isolated incident or a wider problem in France?

Data on vaccine usage is not straightforward because France gets weekly deliveries, not always on the same day, so usage rates appear to fluctuate throughout the week depending on the time since the most recent delivery.

However French newspaper Le Parisien has published a data breakdown showing a 74 percent usage rate for AstraZeneca, compared with 68 percent for Moderna and 92 percent for Pfizer BioN Tech. The rollout of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine been paused in Europe by the manufacturer.

The Health Ministry’s most recent figures are 93 percent usage for Pfizer and 74 percent for AstraZeneca and Moderna. 

Pfizer is by far the most widely-used vaccine, but it has also been delivered in the largest numbers. Overall, France has greatly increased the usage rate of vaccines since the early days of the programme when millions of doses appeared to be sitting unused – an issue that was blamed on an over-complicated supply system.

Doctor Luc Duquesnel, who coordinates vaccine centres in the Mayenne département, told Le Parisien: “We’re not going to hide it, we’re struggling.”

While François Bricaire, who is involved with the vaccine programme in Paris, added: “Pfizer, it will take five minutes to fill in the questionnaire. But for AstraZeneca, you have to take the time to explain, to convince… Some people agree, others don’t want it. Already it had not been given good press and is less effective against variants, and the blood clot link was the final straw.”

People in France are not given a choice of vaccines when they book their appointment.

Government spokesman Gabriel Attal acknowledged on Monday: “We have a lot of work to do to restore confidence in the AstraZeneca vaccine.”

However some have pointed to other factors to explain the lower uses of AstraZeneca, primarily the fact that it is not available to all.

Following fears over links to blood clots in younger people, France changed its guidance on AstraZeneca, so that it is now used only on people aged between 55 and 74, while Pfizer and Moderna can be used on all age groups.

Under 55s who have previously had a first dose of AstraZeneca will receive a different vaccine for their second dose.

With the opening of larger ‘vaccinedrome’ sites and drive-in centres the type of vaccine used is more varied, but AstraZeneca is more widely used by family doctors and pharmacies, who are more likely to have logistical and storage issues than the large vaccine centres.

The issue with Moderna’s usage seems harder to explain, as it has not suffered from the image problems associated with AstraZeneca and is of the same vaccine type as Pfizer.

France has received relatively small quantities of Moderna, meaning it has not played a major part in the vaccination drive so far, leading infectious diseases expert Benjamin Davido to suggest that it suffers from a lack of ‘brand recognition’: “There is a feeling that there is confusion and that people only want Pfizer. Nobody talks about Moderna, which is lumped in with AstraZeneca.”

Luc Duquesnel suggested that the low numbers of Moderna vaccine cause logistical problems with some doses having to be kept to supply second doses for patients. 

The Moderna vaccine’s use may pick up once its use it expanded to pharmacies – expected from June after a trial in the Moselle area – and it could also be used to give second doses to the under 55s, who got AstraZeneca for their first injection – an estimated 500,000 people, mostly health workers.

Still the most common complaint on the ground in France is not being able to find a vacant appointment slot, even for those in eligible groups.

Several websites have been set up aimed at helping people to find appointments in their area, and after the news broke of the closed vaccine centre in Nice, many people commented on social media that they wished they had known there were doses going spare – they would have snapped them up.

READ ALSO How to sign up for ‘spare’ doses of the Covid vaccine in France   

Since opening at the start of April, the Nice vaccinedrome has been vaccinating up to 5,000 people a day.

In total, 12.5 million people have had at least one dose of the vaccine and the government’s next target it to have 20 million people vaccinated by mid May. 

Member comments

  1. So the government is only giving astrazenica to people between 55 and 74 – this week. So what happens when the people between 55 and 74 that are offered it refuse it, are they going to throw it away rather than give it to some of the millions of under-50s (like me) who have no chance of getting vaccinated otherwise between now and July/August and who would gladly take it now and take the risk? And what happens in a week or two’s time, when they change their minds again and they’ve already thrown away all these doses?

    1. Sign up for ‘covidliste’, at least that way you have a sporting chance of getting one of the left over doses.

      1. Yeah, but the fact that covidliste was set up by a third party without any input or interest by the government says a lot about how flexible the government’s plans are here…

  2. I agree, compared to countries like Israel and the UK, the vaccine rollout in France (and much of the EU) is a complete mess.

    I have not yet had the first dose here in France, but both my brothers and their wives, who are all younger than me, have had both doses back in the UK and none of us is in a priority group in either country.

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

COVID-19

Return of the health pass? How France plans to tackle new wave of Covid cases

With a sharp rise in reported cases in recent weeks, France appears to be in the middle of a new wave of Covid infections - so what measures are the government taking to control it?

Return of the health pass? How France plans to tackle new wave of Covid cases

Recorded case numbers in France are now over 50,000 a week, and have been since the beginning of June – this is a long way short of the 350,000 weekly cases recorded in January but still the highest since May and representing a steady an increase of 57 percent on the previous week.

Hospital admissions are also on the rise – standing at 707 admissions on Friday, June 24th compared to 400 daily admissions just two weeks earlier.

So what is the French government doing about it?

Since March, almost all Covid-related restrictions have been lifted in France – the health pass is no longer required for everyday activities such as visiting a bar or going to the gym and face masks are now merely advised in all indoor locations. Only hospitals and other health establishments such as nursing homes still have mandatory rules on face masks and health passes.

For international travel, fully vaccinated arrivals from most countries – including the UK, US and the whole of the EU – need only to show proof of vaccination, while unvaccinated travellers need to show proof of a recent negative Covid test – full details HERE.

Health pass

A proposed bill from the health ministry that was leaked to French media talks about re-imposing some form of pass sanitaire (health pass) to get numbers under control.

Some caveats to add here is that the document is only a proposal at this stage and the government has explicitly rules out – for the moment – reintroducing the vaccine pass. The health pass can be used to show either proof of vaccination or a recent negative Covid test, so it is less restrictive for the unvaccinated.

The document suggests re-introducing a health pass for travel – both to and from France – not for everyday activities like going to a café.

Testing and contact tracing

The bill also proposes extending the software involved in contact tracing and the Covid testing programme until March 2023, although this is described as a ‘precaution’.

Testing remains available on a walk-in basis at most French pharmacies and by appointment at health centres and medical labs. Tests are free for fully-vaccinated residents of France who have a carte vitale. Those are only visiting France, who are not registered in the French health system or who are not vaccinated have to pay – prices are capped at €22 for an antigen test and €54 for a PCR test.

READ ALSO How tourists in France can get a Covid test

Masks

The Minister of Health, Brigitte Bourguignon, said she is “asking the French to wear masks on public transport once again” during an interview with RTL on Monday, June 27th. She also recommended wearing a mask in all other enclosed crowded areas, as a “civic gesture.” However, she did not refer to the request as a government mandated obligation.

At present masks are not required, but are recommended, especially on busy services where it is impossible to practice social distancing.

Epidemiologist Pascal Crépey said: “In crowded trains, the risk of being in the presence of infected people is high. It would be a good idea for the population to wear the mask, to protect especially the most fragile and avoid massive infection rates.”

Local measures

French local authorities also have the power to impose certain types of restrictions if their area has a particularly high rate of infections.

At present, none have done so, but Nice mayor Christian Estrosi has spoken in favour of possibly bringing back the vaccine pass over the summer.

Second booster shots

A second booster shot of the Covid vaccine is now available to all over 60s and anyone who has a long-term medical condition or who is otherwise at risk from Covid.

It is recommended that the government increase public messaging advising those in high risk groups to get the second booster shot. The medical regular HAS has advised combining second booster shots with the seasonal flu vaccine campaign in September and October.

France is not, at present, considering widening the campaign to the entire popular, but the EU’s vaccine commissioner Thierry Breton says that if necessary, there would be enough doses to cover the whole population.

SHOW COMMENTS