France u-turn jab: AZ you were

France u-turn jab: AZ you were
Sean Gallup/Getty Images
Text settings

It has been difficult to keep up with all the the twists and turns of Europe's vaccine procurement programme these past nine weeks though Mr S has tried his best. Few countries have vacillated on the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine more than France, where last month nearly 1 in 4 said they would not be getting the vaccine. In a country where vaccine hesitancy is rampant, you might have hoped that political and medical leaders would have offered a strong lead to the public but apparently not.

At the beginning of March, French medical authorities finally recommended the jab to over 65s, two months after president Emmanuel Macron called the AstraZeneca jab 'quasi-ineffective' for this age group. Then last week the country followed other European counterparts and suspended its use of the vaccine based on a handful of blood clot cases, hours before one minister suggested suing AstraZeneca for breach of contract. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has reported that out of 20 million vaccinated in UK and EEA there were just 7 cases of clots in multiple vessels and 18 of clots in vessels leading to brain.

As Paris heads back into lockdown, France has now changed tack again. French Prime Minister Jean Castex is expected to be vaccinated with the Oxford jab today with the roll out of the vaccine starting (again) alongside similar efforts in Germany and Italy. But this time there's a difference — the country's health authorities are recommending the jab for only those over 55. This follows the EMA saying that cases of rare type of blood clots were 'almost all in women under 55'. 

In summary therefore, the French position on the Oxford jab has gone in nine weeks from banning it, to allowing it for just those under the age of 65, to allowing it for all, to banning it and now allowing it only for those over 55.

Perhaps trying to allay fears, the 64-year-old French Ambassador in London Catherine Colonna proudly tweeted a pic of her jab card today captioned 'Done. Safely.' Sharp eyed superjabber Hugo Gye noted the date on Colonna's vaccine card – Tuesday 16 March. This is when its use was suspended in France, but Colonna decided not to publicise the fact until today after the suspension was lifted.

Colonna's predecessor in London Sylvie Bermann is of course currently touting her book 'Goodbye Britannia' with its withering judgements on Boris, Britain and the battle to leave the EU. Mr S wonders whether – in light of Brussels's failings on vaccine procurement – will Colonna's sequel be a bit more receptive to the idea of Brexit?

Written bySteerpike

Steerpike is The Spectator's gossip columnist, serving up the latest tittle tattle from Westminster and beyond. Email tips to