Politics

Emmanuel Macron uprising: EU leaders turn on French president over AstraZeneca own-goal

Oxford vaccine: Fergus Walsh on results and Macron’s comments

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The French President claimed the AstraZeneca jab was “quasi-ineffective” in January, not long before the EU’s drugs regulator approved the use of the vaccine for all adults. The comment concerned other EU leaders who have since reportedly challenged the French President.

A senior EU official said some leaders asked the French chief to explain himself after his comments sparked scepticism among citizens about the life-saving vaccine.

The source told the Daily Telegraph: “The point was raised by some leaders indeed.

“I cannot say who and when it was raised.

“There are in some countries some doubts and I think that the question was more to get clarification on if it was true or not and since then I think the commission has reacted to this.”

Mr Macron’s comments were later rebuked by AstraZeneca but a number of EU capitals refused to green-light the jab for use in over-55s.

There have since been reports in Germany, France, Belgium and Italy of people turning down the AstraZeneca vaccine because of concerns over its safety and efficacy.

In a bid to rescue the situation, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Wednesday she would accept the vaccine.

She said: “I would be vaccinated with the vaccine from AstraZeneca just as safely as with the products from BioNTech/Pfizer or Moderna.

“When we started looking for the most promising out of the hundreds of candidates ten months ago, we assumed an effectiveness of between 50 and 70 percent.

“Now everyone is above that.

“The vaccine has been carefully examined, found to be safe and effective, and approved.”

EU leaders will address the bloc’s vaccination strategy in a videoconference today, where the issue is likely to be raised again against the French President.


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Earlier this month, research from Scotland found four weeks after receiving the initial dose, the Oxford jab appeared to reduce a person’s risk of hospital admission by up to 94 percent.

The research also showed people who received the Pfizer jab had a reduction in risk of up to 85 percent between 28 and 34 days after the first dose.

Data for the two jabs combined showed among people over the age of 80 – who are at high risk of severe disease – the reduction in risk of hospital admission was 81 percent four weeks after the first dose.

The majority of older people in the study – who are among those at highest risk of severe disease and death from COVID-19 – were more likely to have had the AstraZeneca jab.

Experts examined COVID-19 hospital admissions in Scotland among people who have had their first jab and compared them to those who had not yet received a vaccine.

Scientists from the universities of Edinburgh, Strathclyde, Aberdeen, Glasgow and St Andrews and Public Health Scotland (PHS) looked at data on people who had received either the Pfizer/BioNTech jab or the one developed by scientists at the University of Oxford with AstraZeneca.

Scientists said the evidence showed the vaccines were “performing incredibly well” and they would anticipate seeing similar results around the UK.

But they said the study did not set out to examine the differences between the two jabs, and stressed a comparison would not be “fair” because the vaccines had been offered to different populations.

Lead researcher Professor Aziz Sheikh, director of the University of Edinburgh’s Usher Institute, said: “These results are very encouraging and have given us great reasons to be optimistic for the future.

“We now have national evidence – across an entire country – that vaccination provides protection against COVID-19 hospitalisations.”

He added: “We are overall very, very impressed with both these vaccines.

“When we move beyond trial circumstances you never know what the results are going to be, but this is out in the field and both are performing incredibly well.”

He said AstraZeneca had “predominantly” been given to the elderly, adding: “At the moment, we don’t have the numbers to do these age-stratified analyses by different vaccine types but we will have those soon.

“But both of these (vaccines) are working spectacularly well, that said, we haven’t done a direct comparison between the two at the moment.”

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