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Exclusive: French health agency to say mRNA vaccine to be used as second dose after AstraZeneca

PARIS (Reuters) – France’s top health body said on Friday that recipients of a first dose of AstraZeneca’s traditional COVID-19 vaccine under the age of 55 should get another shot with a new messenger RNA vaccine, two sources are aware of plans said Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: The ultrastructural morphology exhibited by Novel Coronavirus 2019 (2019-nCoV) is seen in an illustration published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia, US January 29, 2020. Alissa Eckert, MS; Dan Higgins, MAM / CDC / Handout via REUTERS./Filfoto

Reuters had reported on Wednesday that the Haute Autorite de la Sante (HAS), which is responsible for how vaccines approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) are to be used in France, is considering this possibility.

HAS has now decided to continue with the plan, the two sources said. Two mRNA vaccines, one from Pfizer and BioNTech and one from Moderna, are approved for use in France.

Messenger RNA vaccines encourage the human body to produce a protein that mimics part of the virus and trigger an immune response, while viral vector vaccines like AstraZeneca use a cold virus to carry DNA instructions to do the same.

A HAS spokeswoman had no comment.

Vaccination programs have taken off in Europe and elsewhere in the last month, as very few, mostly young recipients of the AstraZeneca shot were found to have extremely unusual blood clots, leading some countries to suspend use as a precaution.

Most have resumed with the shot, although some have done so with age restrictions.

In France, on 1

9 March, HAS advised that only people aged 55 and over should receive the AstraZeneca vaccine, which had already been given to 500,000 people as a first dose.

While the number is small compared to the tens of millions of millions inoculated across the EU, a decision to give another booster shot would be significant because the approach has not been tested in experiments on humans at late stages.

Germany was the first European country to recommend that people under the age of 60 who have had their first AstraZeneca shot receive another product for their second dose.

Some experts say that because all vaccines target the same external “spike” protein in the virus, they can be complementary. But there is no evidence that this approach will be so effective.

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