France will inject the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines to those under 55 who have received a first dose of AstraZeneca. This has been recommended this Friday by the High Health Authority (HAS), the body in charge of authorizing medicines in the country and whose vaccination guidelines are followed by the Government of Emmanuel Macron. The agency thus responds to the opinion of the European Medicines Agency (EMA, for its acronym in English), which this Wednesday confirmed the links of the drug with very rare cases of thrombi, although it reiterated that the benefits of immunization far outweigh the risks . The Minister of Health, Olivier Véran, has already advanced that the new protocol will be adopted immediately, which he considers “logical.
“In view of the fact that the administration of a single dose of AstraZeneca is insufficient to guarantee effective protection over time, the HAS recommends today completing the vaccination schedule for this population with a messenger RNA vaccine. [Pfizer y Moderna] within a period of 12 weeks after the first injection, ”the agency points out in its conclusions, presented this Friday.
“It is totally coherent to say ‘we no longer recommend the AstraZeneca vaccine to those under 55 years of age waiting to know more’ (…), so if you have received a first injection and are under 55 years of age, you will be proposed another vaccine 12 weeks after the first injection; you will receive an RNA vaccine ”, Véran had explained shortly before on the RTL station.
The measure will affect just over 500,000 people who have already received the first dose of the Anglo-Swedish vaccine and which produces rare cases of thrombosis, which is why the age of its recipients has been limited. A good part of those under 55 years of age who have received a first injection of this drug are health personnel. “I myself am part of that population,” recalled the 41-year-old minister and neurologist, who has already been vaccinated.
The HAS states that there are “numerous arguments” in favor of the strategy of inoculating two different vaccines and notes that it has already been done “in the context of the development of certain vaccines, especially HIV.” In addition, it emphasizes that the drugs “currently used or mostly under development for anti-SARS-CoV-2 vaccination act against the same antigen (protein S), which allows to support this strategy.” However, the agency recommends starting a study “quickly” to “evaluate in real time the immune response given by the recommended mixed vaccination schedule”, as well as to carry out a “specific monitoring of pharmacovigilance” for these people.
The president of the HAS vaccination technical commission, Elisabeth Bouvet, defended this strategy against restarting the entire two-dose process with another RNA vaccine, arguing that people who have already received a dose of AstraZeneca “have already produced antibodies and have a certain immune memory that the RNA vaccine will remember ”. For this reason, he added at a telematic press conference, “probably a single dose (of RNA) should be enough.” Even so, he indicated that for this reason it is necessary to do an immediate follow-up of these people. The first data, he pointed out, should be known “a few weeks” after those affected have received this second dose.
However, the World Health Organization (WHO) has reiterated this Friday that it cannot make a recommendation on this strategy. “There is no adequate data to say if this is something that can be done,” said Margaret Harris, a spokeswoman for the agency, so “vaccine interchangeability is not something they can recommend at this time.”
Only for people over 55
France, along with fifteen European countries, including Spain, suspended the administration of AstraZeneca vaccines for a few days in mid-March, after learning that there had been some rare cases of thrombosis in patients throughout Europe. After the European Medicines Agency gave its approval, France resumed these vaccines on March 19, but does not administer them to those under 55 years of age. A strategy that will not change because “currently we do not have sufficient arguments to modify that age limit,” said the president of the HAS, Dominique Le Guludec.
The person in charge stressed the importance of continuing the vaccination campaign and that those older than that age continue to accept this vaccine, for which France does not impose age limits from 55 years. “We recommend vaccination with AstraZeneca for those over 55 years of age. It is an effective vaccine and the risk of serious forms of covid increases very significantly with age ”, recalled Le Guludec when presenting the recommendations. “Today, for the elderly, what puts them at risk is SARS-COV-2 infection. This vaccine will save lives, and if we want to win the battle against the virus, we must use all the weapons at our disposal, ”he insisted.
The agency’s decision is known hours after France exceeded the barrier of 10 million first doses administered, almost a week before the date that the Government had set. Almost 3.5 million people have already received both doses. According to the official calendar, up to 20 million people should have received a first dose in France by mid-May. An “ambitious goal, but we need ambition,” Véran said about it. France this week opened 38 vaccine fields across the country, as part of its policy of accelerating a campaign whose slow start sparked much criticism in January.