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A French start-up received an order from the UK for 40 million doses of its vaccine at the end of January – with London to now be given priority access to the jabs over Paris and the rest of the EU. The vaccine is expected to be in the UK by June this year but may not be available in France until 2022. President and Chief Business Officer of biotech company Valneva, Franck Grimaud, has estimated that the first vaccines will be delivered to the UK as soon as medical trials are complete, which he believes will be as early as June 2021.
However, vaccines are only likely to be available to the EU around the beginning of 2022, even though the company is based in Saint-Herblain, Pays de la Loire, France.
The Council President of the Pays de la Loire region has angrily blamed French President Emmanuel Macron for a missed opportunity to provide the vaccine to local people.
President Christelle Morançais said: “It is vital that the state proves it has much more agility and reactivity when it comes to supporting and defending our companies at the forefront of fighting the virus.
“France has missed the chance of ‘its’ own Covid vaccine.”
In an exclusive interview with Express.co.uk, French MEP Philippe Olivier, who serves as special adviser to National Rally party leader Marine Le Pen, also took a dig at Mr Macron.
He said: “Of course Macron is responsible.
Macron torn apart by French MEP after UK clinches vaccine under his nose
Council President of the Pays de la Loire region Christelle Morançais
“They have favoured big laboratories and thus not paid attention to the small gemstones we have got in France.
“The Brits have had the good idea of running clinical trials with smaller companies, but the EU has based its entire strategy on working with big pharma.
“You see, it’s a different mindset.”
Mr Olivier added: “We believe solutions should be national solutions and should be found within proximity.”
France’s slow vaccine rollout has been the subject of a bitter debate since early January, when it became clear that the country’s cautious approach was leaving it behind its neighbours – the UK in particular.
According to Our World in Data, the UK has vaccinated almost 18 million people, whereas France has only vaccinated 3.7.
Against this background, the news that the Institut Pasteur had abandoned its plan to develop a COVID-19 vaccine with the US pharma giant Merck has only exacerbated recriminations over the place of science in a country that takes pride in its history of scientific discovery.
Sanofi and GSK also acknowledged their main vaccine was less effective than anticipated, delaying its possible rollout until the end of the year.
The company said that it will now help its competitors BioNTech and Pfizer produce their vaccine amid a shortfall in production capacity.
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French President Emmanuel Macron
French MEP Philippe Olivier
Following these announcements, the centre-right Les Républicains parliamentary group tweeted: “In a race against the clock, the Pasteur Institute throws in the towel on its main vaccine project, while Sanofi announces a delay until the end of the year, because of a lack of efficiency after so many grand announces.
“This scientific decline is a slap in the face.”
French MP for the hard-left La France Insoumise, Bastien Lachaud, added: “No vaccine in the country of Pasteur!
“What a symbol.
“This is where the impoverishing of public research, the primacy of the private sector, and the triumph of management and profit are leading.”
Speaking to French Radio Fabien Roussel, the national secretary of the French Communist Party, also claimed: “This is a shame for a group like Sanofi and it’s a humiliation for France, not able to vaccinate, not capable of putting a vaccine on the market.”
At the end of January, Mr Macron criticised the UK’s vaccination strategy, questioning its effectiveness and arguing France is being “safer”.
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The French President claimed the AstraZeneca jabs appeared to be “quasi-ineffective” on people older than 65 – just hours after the European Medicines Agency (EMA) approved it in the whole of Europe.
He also condemned Britain’s decision to extend the time between people receiving their first and second dose, from 28 days to 12 weeks.
The 43-year-old insisted the “goal is not to have the biggest number of first injections”, and claimed “we are lying to people when we tell them they’ve been vaccinated by getting one injection of a vaccine that consists of two injections”.
However, Scientists at the University of Oxford vindicated the UK’s decision to maximise the number of people receiving their first dose.
Tests showed the vaccine has a 76 percent efficacy against symptomatic infection for three months after a single dose, with greater effectiveness when a second is given later.
Greg Clark, the chairman of the Commons science committee, said: “It seems that President Macron has made an error. It is nonsense.”
Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith added: “His reckless remarks damage public health by playing into the hands of the anti-vaxxers on a false premise.
“In this respect, he out-trumps Donald Trump.”
As a result of his comments, it appears that thousands of people are indeed deliberately skipping appointments for the Oxford jab in Europe.
Leaders are now urging people to take AstraZeneca, with the lack of uptake threatening to further derail Europe’s vaccination rollout, which still lags way behind the UK.