A battle is raging in Europe over the safety of vaccines on Friday. As the EMA insists that the AstraZeneca's COVID vaccine was safe, before approving it for everyone over 18, French President Emmanuel Macron has just expressed serious doubts about the jab's efficacy, just as Europe's second-largest economy is supposedly struggling to convince citizens to take the vaccine.
Just before the EMA's expert committee unanimously recommended the vaccine to be used on all adults over 18, concerns were raised this week that not enough data exist to prove that the vaccine works in older people, and those concerns were amplified by Macron, much to the chagrin of some fellow EU leaders.
"The real problem with AstraZeneca is just that it doesn’t work as expected, because there we have very little information," Macron told a group of foreign reporters at the Elysée Palace on Friday.
The comments come after days of Brussels pushing back against AstraZeneca and other vaccine makers' delays in delivering the vaccines, even as skepticism of their efficacy remains widespread, especially in France and Germany.
The AstraZeneca jab is only the third given the greenlight by the EMA, after the Pfizer and Moderna jabs.
Europe still approved the jab on Friday, despite widespread doubts and criticisms about whether it's efficacy. Too many bureaucrats were apparently anxious of the delay in the bloc's decision to approve and roll out the vaccines. Even the mainstream press acknowledged that "concerns" had been raised about the vaccine's use in elderly patients.
The trials upon which the EMA based its decision found that the AZ vaccine was roughly 60% effective.
Macron added that the US hadn't approved the AZ jab yet, and added that France was waiting on the EUA's decision. Still, the president didn't sound particularly enthusiastic, and his remarks follow an independent commission advising the German government's findings that the AZ-Oxford vaccine shouldn't be used on people over 65.
The French president added that "everything suggests that it is almost ineffective for those over 65, and some say over 60."
Given that the virus is much more virulent in the elderly and those with comorbidities, four-fifths of those hospitalized with the virus in France are older than 65. Europe has been engaged in a heated confrontation with AZ over whether the vaccine maker was breaking its delivery commitments. When asked about rumors Europe would simply halt vaccines from leaving local factories, the French President insisted that such an infringement on private property wouldn't be tolerated.
The shortfall of AZ vaccines is expected to be about 60% of the quantity that was hoped for. European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen demanded an explanation for why the company wouldn't be able to meet its commitments after unspecified problems at one of its factories.
Then again, that's not exactly reassuring.