Macron trying to 'reduce demand' by criticizing Oxford/AstraZeneca jab, says vaccine scientist

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Amid a bitter cross-Channel feud over the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, one of the scientists behind the drug has accused French President Emmanuel Macron of trying to suppress demand.

On Friday, Macron said the vaccine was “quasi-ineffective on people older than 65, some say those 60 years or older.”

“I’m not sure where he got that from,” John Bell, a medical professor at Oxford University, told BBC Radio 4’s Today program on Saturday. “I suspect this is a bit of demand management from Mr. Macron,” he said. “If you didn’t have any vaccine the best thing you could do is reduce demand.”

EU leaders this month reacted angrily to AstraZeneca’s announcement that production would fall far short of originally anticipated volumes. Macron’s fresh comments came hours before the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine was approved by the EU’s regulator for use in all age groups.

While the European Medicines Agency said there was not yet enough evidence to judge its effectiveness in older people, they said there was no reason to think the vaccine would not work.

Bell, who oversaw the vaccine development, conceded that the numbers of older people tested “were small, in fairness,” but the data “still pointed toward a very highly effective vaccine” in all age groups.

The AstraZeneca vaccine is at the heart of an ongoing supply row between the U.K. and EU. The EU on Friday asked customs authorities to block exports of all vaccines from Saturday without explicit authorization — an announcement that initially would have included exports to Northern Ireland.

That triggered immediate blowback from both EU capitals and London and a late-night U-turn from the European Commission because of the sensitivities of the Irish border arrangements.

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier urged calm in the Times in an interview published Saturday, saying: “I believe that we must face this crisis with responsibility, certainly not with the spirit of one upmanship or unhealthy competition.”

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