A nurse administers the Covid-19 vaccine to an elderly patient at the Dunkirk hospital in France, on February 17.
A nurse administers the Covid-19 vaccine to an elderly patient at the Dunkirk hospital in France, on February 17. Denis Charlet/AFP/Getty Images

France is “likely” to alter its guidance and allow people aged 65 and over to get the AstraZeneca vaccine, a spokesman for France’s health ministry told CNN Wednesday. 

France had previously said AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine should only be administered to people aged under 65, citing a lack of clinical data on its efficacy for older people.

“This opinion is likely to change in the near future based on the results of clinical trials on this age group,” the spokesman said.

“A Scottish study on the efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccine seems to indicate very positive results,” he added.

A row erupted across Europe earlier in the year after Germany’s vaccine commission, quickly joined by a handful of other countries, said the AstraZeneca vaccine shouldn’t be given to the over-65s, citing insufficient data.

The decisions came amid an ongoing dispute between the European Union and AstraZeneca over delays to the delivery of its coronavirus vaccine to the bloc. The European drug regulator approved the use of the vaccine for all ages, and the company has said its data supported its use for over 65s.

But French President Emmanuel Macron went as far as suggesting the vaccine was “quasi-ineffective” in people over 65, a comment that drew sharp criticism from many experts.

France’s reassessment follows Italy’s decision Tuesday to raise the age limit for AstraZeneca’s vaccine by ten years, now approving it for use on people up to 65. 

Early data on the Pfizer and Oxford-AstraZeneca shots in Scotland showed that by the fourth week after the initial dose, both vaccines had a significant impact on hospital admissions. The Pfizer vaccine reduced the risk of hospital admission from Covid-19 by up to 85%, and the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine reduced the risk of hospitalization by up to 94%.

The study is the first to look at the two vaccines’ effect on preventing severe illness resulting in hospitalization across an entire country, with previous efficacy results coming from clinical trials. Unlike France and Italy, Scotland does not have an age cap on who the AstraZeneca vaccines is recommended for. 

Eleftheria Vasileiou, data analyst at the University of Edinburgh’s Usher Institute, noted during a Monday press briefing on the study that in Scotland the “Pfizer vaccine is given to all age groups but it’s not been given terribly much to those people who are over 75”. She said in Scotland the AstraZeneca vaccine has been primarily going to people who are over 65.