A mass vaccination centre in the French city of Nice has been forced to close hours after opening after just 58 people signed up for jabs.
The Palais des Expositions in Nice had 4,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to give to teachers, policemen and others in high-risk jobs over the age of 55, with appointments starting at 9am on Saturday and due to run through the weekend.
But the centre was forced to close by 1pm yesterday and will not reopen today as scheduled after just 58 people signed up, local officials said.
Anne Frackowiak-Jacobs, sub-prefect of nearby Grasse, said that scaremongering around the safety of the jab – including by Emmanuel Macron – led to people ‘turning around’ when they learned they would be given AstraZeneca.
A mass vaccination centre at the Palais des Expositions in Nice was forced to close yesterday after just 58 people turned up for 4,000 available jabs
The Palais des Expositions opened at 9am on Saturday and was due to administer jabs all weekend, but closed at 1pm and will not reopen on Sunday due to lack of demand
Macron previously described the AstraZeneca jab as ‘quasi-ineffective’ in older people and limited its use to the young, before flip-flopping after data suggested a link to very rare blood clots in the young, restricting it to older people instead.
That has led to ‘vaccine hesitancy’ among French people – already Europe’s biggest vaccine-skeptics – with a survey last month showing 61 per cent of people now think the AstraZeneca jab is ‘unsafe.’
Local officials tried to claim that vaccines had been advertised late and restrictions on age and occupation were also to blame for appointments going un-used.
But Ms Frackowiak-Jacobs said it actually shows that French people have ‘no confidence’ in the British-made jab, despite world health authorities and Europe’s own regulator saying the benefits far outweigh the risks.
The vaccination centre in Nice is now due to reopen on Monday and will instead offer Pfizer and Moderna jabs in the hopes of attracting more interest.
The AstraZeneca jabs will instead be sent to a nearby fire station to be used by government employees on the priority list, Nice Martin reported.
The scenes of empty vaccination centres played out in Nice even as France reports rising Covid cases with infections almost back to their second wave peak, despite a nationwide lockdown.
On Saturday, the country reported another 35,000 new cases, bringing the overall total to 5.2million, and another 189 deaths.
Officials attempted to blame late advertisement and age restrictions for the disinterest, but one said people had actually ‘turned around’ after learning they would be given AstraZeneca
Surveys show a majority of French people, already the biggest vaccines skeptics in Europe, now believe AstraZeneca’s vaccine is unsafe due to scaremongering led by Macron
France’s Covid death toll now stands at more than 100,000, a grim benchmark that it passed on Thursday.
France is currently in lockdown, and Mr Macron has been severely criticised for the slowness of vaccine roll-out, compared to neighbours including the UK.
Some 12million people have so far received at least a first dose of vaccine against Coronavirus in France, or 18.4 per cent of the population.
This compares to around 4.5million people, or 6.6 per cent of France’s population, who have received a second dose.
Despite this, thousands of doses of the Anglo-Swedish developed Oxford AstraZeneca are being wasted following panic created by President Macron.
Political opponents suggested the notoriously anti-Brexit president had partly questioned its safety and effectiveness so as to attack the UK.
Natacha Bouchart, the Mayor of Calais, is among those who have referred to a
‘wave of panic’ created by Mr Macron, saying: ‘There really has to be a national campaign to explain that this vaccine has no more negative consequences than the ones from Pfizer or Moderna.’
Mr Macron announced that the use of AstraZeneca was being suspended last month ‘as a precaution’.
He at first said it was dangerous for people aged over 65, and then reviewed this to say that those under 55 should avoid it.
This was around the time that Mr Macron’s own prime minister, Jean Castex, was having an AstraZeneca jab.