French President Emmanuel Macron says all his countrymen who want a vaccine will be offered one "by the end of the summer" in a bid to offset gripes over the slow roll out of the inoculation drive. This comes as the UK has dismissed French claims of being reckless in their vaccination campaign, following criticism of the AstraZeneca vaccine being given to over-65s.
Speaking on TF1 on Tuesday, Macron defended France's record in the face of criticism for its slow Covid-19 vaccine rollout, especially compared with neighbour Britain which began its inoculation programme weeks earlier than EU countries and has set a much faster rate.
He added, however, that 80% of care-home residents -- some 500,000 people -- would be vaccinated by early March.
France's rollout "may seem too slow" when compared with countries that had "made other bets", he said, adding "I defend the strategy we have adopted with Germany, with the European Union, which is precisely [how] to vaccinate in Europe."
UK governement stand over fast-track vaccine campaign
This comes as Britain's health secretary Matt Hancock said that scientists have shown the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine worked well with the elderly, following comments reportedly made by Macron that it is "quasi-ineffective" among people over 65.
Speaking this Wednesday, French European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune continued the criticism saying the United Kingdom had taken "enormous risks" regarding its Covid-19 vaccines strategy, implying the UK has rushed the roll out of the AstraZeneca vaccine and "taken fewer precautions than ourselves."
Conversely, a recently published Oxford University study has shown that the AstraZeneca vaccine significantly reduces virus transmission - by 67% - and is highly protective after a single dose.
The British government said this Wednesday that the study, which is still awaiting peer review, has vindicated its inoculation strategy.
French labs prepare for multiple-patent vaccine production
Meanwhile, France's Industry Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher has announced a French laboratory will start producing Moderna's Covid-19 vaccine in March, while Sanofi will begin making the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in April.
"In May, we should (also) be producing the CureVac vaccine, for which we are waiting for approval," she added, referring to the German biotech firm that could start French production at a lab owned by Fareva.
Separately, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Russia's Sputnik V vaccine could be used in France as long as it meets "scientific norms" and European "standards."
The Sputnik vaccine has a 91.6 percent efficacy rate according to the scientific revue The Lancet, in a report reviewed by peers and published on Tuesday.
President Macron also pledged on Tuesday that four sites on French soil would begin making Covid vaccines as French pride has taken a hit after pharma giant Sanofi said its vaccine would not be ready until later this year.