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French President Emmanuel Macron waits at the Élysée Palace in Paris before a working lunch on January 27. Chesnot/Getty Images

An Oxford professor who was part of the team that developed the Covid-19 vaccine with AstraZeneca has disputed comments by French President Emmanuel Macron appearing to question the efficacy of the jab in over-65s.

Asked on BBC Radio about Macron’s comments that the vaccine is “quasi-ineffective” in people over 65, professor John Bell said Saturday, “I’m not sure where he got that from.”

Acknowledging that the number of elderly people participating in the original study was “small” at around 12%, Bell added that “in vaccinology the way you deal with that problem is you identify the level of immunity that a vaccine generates.”

“The elderly people responded just as well as people in other age groups and there’s really persuasive evidence that this is a protective vaccine in those populations,” Bell said.

On Friday, Macron told reporters, “what I can tell you officially is that the first results are not encouraging for those over 60-65 years old,” adding that “very little information” is available on the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

“I suspect this is a bit of demand management from Mr. Macron,” Bell said.

Pushed on the point by the host, Bell added that “if he didn’t have any vaccine, the best thing you could do is reduce demand.”

Macron’s comments have been widely criticized in the UK press as the bitter row between the EU, drugmakers and the UK over vaccine supply continues to dominate headlines.

The EU’s medicines regulator approved the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for all age groups on Friday. Earlier in the week, Germany’s vaccine commission said it would not recommend its use in the over-65s due to insufficient data on its effectiveness in that population.

 

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