French President Emmanual Macron said the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine appeared to be “quasi-ineffective” on people older than 65 — just hours before the EU‘s drugs regulator approved it for use on all adults. He said: “The real problem on AstraZeneca is that it doesn’t work the way we were expecting it to. “We’re waiting for the EMA [European Medicines Agency] results, but today everything points to thinking it is quasi-ineffective on people older than 65, some say those 60 years or older.”
His comments came as the EU, AstraZeneca, and the UK engaged in a vicious war of words, with Brussels demanding the drugs company redirect UK-made jabs to make up for a manufacturing shortfall in Europe.
On Friday evening, the row escalated further as the EU said it would be triggering an emergency provision in the Brexit deal to control COVID-19 vaccine exports, including the possible introduction of checks at the border of Ireland and Northern Ireland to prevent shipments entering the UK.
After fierce condemnation from London, Belfast, and Dublin, the EU performed a swift U-turn.
Mr Macron’s comments have also been harshly condemned by British scientists – but the French President has not rectified his statement.
Professor Anthony Harnden of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) told Good Morning Britain that “politicians need to understand the science” before making false claims.
As the row over vaccines intensifies, in an exclusive interview with Express.co.uk, German MEP Gunnar Beck has claimed Mr Macron’s influence within the EU will be even greater after Mrs Merkel retires.
Armin Laschet has recently been appointed new federal chairman of Germany’s centre-right Christian Democrats (CDU).
He is now in line to succeed Mrs Merkel as Chancellor after this year’s federal election.
Mr Beck said: “Merkel undoubtedly had a lot of experience.
“Laschet lacks that experience.
“He is a rather provincial figure. His career has only been on a regional level. He has never had a ministerial role.
In 2020 alone, the two met three times.
Alongside German Minister of Health Jens Spahn, Mr Laschet was invited by Mr Macron to attend the 2020 Bastille Day celebrations in Paris, in a sign of gratitude for their role in helping French citizens during the COVID-19 pandemic in France.
In an honour reserved for special guests, Mr Macron also invited the new CDU leader into the Élysée Palace’s gardens.
Mr Laschet is generally seen in line with Mrs Merkel’s views on key issues.
However, when it comes to the EU, he has often criticised the German Chancellor for not being ambitious enough.
At the Munich Security Conference last year, he said: “Today the French President [Emmanuel Macron] is making proposals, but we are taking too long to respond.”