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COVID-19 VACCINES

French health authority advises against Moderna’s Covid vaccine for booster shot

The French medical regulator has recommended using only Pfizer's Covid vaccine for booster shots, after concerns were raised that the Moderna booster could in rare cases cause heart inflammation in young adults.

A vial of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine, which is no longer recommended for third doses in France.
A vial of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine. Photo: STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN / AFP.

After initially recommending both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for third doses, France’s independent regulator, the Haute Autorité de Santé (HAS), is now advising against using the Moderna vaccine, it announced on October 15th.

The health authority did not exclude future use of the Moderna jab, which is yet to receive regulatory approval to be used for third doses in the EU, but said it would wait for a ruling from the European Medicines Agency.

“The announcements from various health authorities have brought to light the unknowns which remain around the dose and target population for the Spikevax (Moderna) booster jab, and justify waiting for the European authority to provide clarification concerning regulatory approval currently under examination,” the HAS wrote in a press release.

The decision follows announcements from several Scandinavian countries since the beginning of October that they were suspending use of the Moderna vaccine for certain groups due to reports of a rare cardiovascular side effect.

Finland has suspended the Moderna vaccine for men under 30, while Norway is recommending that demographic opt for the Pfizer vaccine instead, Reuters reported. Swedish and Danish health authorities have also paused the American-developed vaccine for all young adults and children, and Iceland has completely suspended its use for booster doses.

Those countries cited reports of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle), and pericarditis (inflammation of the lining outside the heart).

READ ALSO Who gets a Covid vaccine booster shot in France

“In any hypothesis, these remain rare and resolve themselves in almost all cases,” the HAS wrote in its decision, but said it would adopt a “position of caution” while awaiting clarification over potential age limits and whether patients should receive a full dose or half a dose.

Moderna is the second most widely used vaccine in France, but a large majority of people have received the Pfizer jab. The same applies to booster doses, as the below chart of daily third injections from Le Parisien journalist Nicolas Berrod shows.

In the meantime, the HAS has said the Pfizer vaccine can be used for booster injections “regardless of the vaccine used for the first doses”.

The third dose campaign in France currently covers over-65s, the immunocompromised and their close friends and relatives, people with comorbidities, and healthcare workers.

Reader question: How can I get my Covid vaccine booster in France?

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COVID-19 VACCINES

More than 100,000 protest Macron’s plan to ‘piss off the unvaccinated’

More than 100,000 people across France protested on Saturday over what they say are government plans to further restrict the rights of the unvaccinated.

More than 100,000 protest Macron's plan to 'piss off the unvaccinated'
Demonstrators hold a banner reading " The youth piss off the vaccine front " during a protest against the health pass on Saturday. Photo: Christophe Archambault/AFP

The protest came only days after French President Emmanuel Macron vowed to “piss off” those refusing the jab.

The turnout was four times higher than the numbers who answered the December 18 call to protest, when 25,500 people marched across the country, according to government estimates.

The protests oppose a planned law that will require individuals to prove they are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus before they can eat out, travel on inter-city trains or attend cultural events.

On Thursday, France’s lower house of parliament passed the controversial bill in a first reading. The government has said it expects the new requirements to be implemented by January 15, although lawmakers in the Senate could now delay the process.

About 18,000 protesters gathered in Paris. Photo: Christophe Archambault/AFP

Interior ministry officials said 105,200 people participated in Saturday’s protests across France, 18,000 of them in the capital Paris, where police reported 10 arrests and three officers slightly injured. Elsewhere there were 24 arrests and seven police officers lightly injured according to the ministry.

Among the larger demonstrations, around 6,000 demonstrators turned out in Toulon, while in Montpellier police used teargas during clashes with protesters.

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France recorded 303,669 new coronavirus cases on Saturday amid mounting pressure on hospitals.

The Paris protesters, many of them unmasked, braved the cold and rain brandishing placards emblazoned with the word “truth” and “No to vaccine passes”.

Others took aim at Macron, using the same coarse language he employed in his attack on people holding out against vaccination earlier in the week.

Macron said Friday that he fully stands by controversial remarks he made on Tuesday, when he vowed to “piss off” people not vaccinated against Covid-19 until they accept shots.

The earthy language and uncompromising approach provoked uproar in French media and from opponents.

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