Paris prosecutors are taking on and combining into an involuntary manslaughter probe three separate investigations over deaths of three people who were given the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine in France, they said Wednesday.
Prosecutors specialised in leading complex investigations into health products will take on the preliminary probes already opened after complaints were filed in Toulouse, Paris and Nantes.
The initial investigations had been carried out by regional prosecutors.
According to the Paris prosecutor's office, the plaintiffs are questioning if there was a causal role of the AstraZeneca vaccine in the deaths of their loved ones.
"We first went to local prosecutors for the sake of speed and to have autopsies and then asked them to transfer the file to Paris," Etienne Boittin, the lawyer behind the complaints told AFP.
In Nantes, a medical student aged 26 died suddenly of a blood clot on March 18 just a few days after getting vaccinated with the AstraZeneca jab. The case from Toulouse concerns a social worker aged 38 who also died of a blood clot after her health deteriorated sharply after getting the jab.
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Boittin said he was handling fifteen cases of people who died in France after having been vaccinated with AstraZeneca, the vast majority of them aged "under 60 years".
France's national health authority HAS last month said the AstraZeneca vaccine should only be given to those aged 55 and over because of reports of potentially deadly blood clots in a very small number of younger people vaccinated.
The move is broadly similar to actions taken by several European countries although Denmark has banned the use of the vaccine outright.
However France has said it has full confidence in the AstraZeneca vaccine for the over 55s and emphasised it retains a key role in the vaccine rollout.
"You are 50 times more likely to get a vein blood clot crossing the Atlantic by plane than getting vaccinated with AstraZeneca. Vaccines protect us from Covid-19. Let's not give into mistrust!" Health Minister Olivier Veran said earlier this month.
Watch: Should I be worried about the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine?