D.he French President Emmanuel Macron came into the crossfire of criticism in Paris on Tuesday for blindly following the vaccination course given by German Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU). The head of the French Science Council for Vaccination Strategy, medical doctor Alain Fischer, criticized the suspension of Astra-Zeneca.
“The effectiveness of the vaccine had been thoroughly investigated,” said Fischer on the television channel BFM-TV. The European Medicines Agency EMA decided “not too quickly” about the approval, unlike in Great Britain it was not an emergency approval procedure. Fischer said there were “a very small number of atypical cases of side effects in countries other than France”.
“There is no reason to suspend”
Health Minister Olivier Véran called on Tuesday to restart the vaccination campaign with Astra-Zeneca as soon as possible. He justified the suspension “with the events in Germany”. The Minister of Health was surprised by President Macron’s decision. “There is no need to suspend,” said Véran when the first cases of thrombosis became known. Only 30 out of five million vaccinated Europeans had complications. “The benefits of vaccination are greater than the risks,” said Véran. Now he justified the turnaround with the compulsion to “European coordination”.
As the newspaper “Liberation” reported, Macron saw himself under pressure from the federal government. Actually, at the Franco-Spanish summit in Montauban, only the considerations for an EU health passport should be discussed. But with his press conference at 4 p.m. Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) put the French President under pressure shortly before his planned press appearance at the side of the Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez. After the fire and rescue workers in southern France had already suspended their vaccination campaign with Astra-Zeneca, Macron was unable to take a course other than Germany.
European Minister Clément Beaune explained on Tuesday that European cohesion had been in the foreground. He pointed out that it would have been better if Denmark and the Netherlands hadn’t pushed ahead on their own. Denmark was the first EU country to suspend vaccinations with Astra-Zeneca last Thursday. Sánchez did not immediately follow Macron’s announcements in Montauban. It was only after leaving France that Spain announced that it would leave the Astrazeneca vaccine in the fridge until further notice. The European domino effect after the German decision was the subject of heated debate, especially in France.
The medical director of the Parisian hospital association APHP, Bruno Riou, expressed incomprehension about the fact that the president had suspended the use of Astra-Zeneca without consulting those responsible in the health sector. “It’s like banning driving because there’s an accident,” said Riou on France Inter radio. In view of the high incidence rates, especially in the capital region, it is necessary to accelerate the vaccination campaign. In the greater Paris area, with an incidence rate of almost 400 per 100,000 inhabitants, the situation “is not yet out of control, but it will be soon,” warned Riou. Therefore, it is the worst time to destroy confidence in the vaccination campaign.
The IT engineer Guillaume Rozier, whose Covid tracker has become the reference for the current pandemic statistics in France, calculated a failure of two million vaccinations in the next two weeks if Astra-Zeneca is not vaccinated. France’s vaccination campaign has only picked up pace for a week.
President Macron surprised his own government with the announcement in Montauban. He spoke of a “precautionary measure” that had been taken in close coordination with the German federal government. The evening before, Prime Minister Jean Castex had emphasized how safe the Swedish-British manufacturer’s vaccine was and that concerns about side effects were unjustified. “Germany decides, France obeys,” complained right-wing populist Florian Philippot. “We have to defend our French interests in full sovereignty.”
Rassemblement National spokesman Laurent Jacobelli complained that France was paying a heavy price for losing its sovereignty over health care. “We depend on the will of the federal government,” criticized Jacobelli on the TV channel LCI. France was degraded to having to follow Germany’s course, lamented the RN MEP Jordan Bardella.
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