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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France approves new vaccines for Covid Omicron sub-variants

France's health authority said Tuesday it had approved three new vaccines against the prevalent Omicron sub-variants of the Covid-19 virus, in a bid to prevent a jump in infections as colder weather approaches.

France approves new vaccines for Covid Omicron sub-variants

The so-called “bivalent: shots, approved by the European Medicines Agency earlier this month, target the BA.1, BA.4 and BA.5 Omicron variants, now responsible for the bulk of new cases since the outbreak began worldwide in early 2020.

French authorities are urging at-risk patients — including those over 60 or adults with pre-existing conditions — to get the bivalent vaccines as part of its booster campaign.

“The number of infections has again started rising in the past few days,” the HAS health authority said, noting that the BA.5 sub-variant was causing the most new cases.

The new vaccine targeting the highly contagious BA.4 and BA.5 types is made by Pfizer and BioNTech, while jabs from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna are for BA.1.