COVID mass vaccination centre in Nice closes early after just 58 people turn up

A closed vaccination center in the city of Nice, southern France, on April 18, 2021
A closed vaccination center in the city of Nice, southern France, on April 18, 2021 Copyright Valery HACHE / AFP
Copyright Valery HACHE / AFP
By Euronews with AFP
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More than 4,000 doses of the AstraZeneca jab were available at the centre this weekend but it closed after a few hours due to low turnout.

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A mass vaccination centre in the French city of Nice closed early this weekend after just 58 of the 4,000 available doses were administered. 

The site was set up to offer doses of vaccine to people over the age of 55 working in jobs that leave them particularly exposed to the virus, such as teachers and police officers.

It closed after just a few hours on Saturday as footfall was too low, and amid claims that some people left on learning they would receive the AstraZeneca jab.

"We had only 58 people show up this morning for the 4,000 doses of vaccine available," Benoit Huber, chief of staff of the Alpes-Maritimes prefect, said on Saturday.

For its part, Grasse prefecture argued that the low turnout may be down to the fact that the département of Alpes-Maritime only has 3,000 teachers over the age of 55, and many will have already received their first dose.

But deputy prefect Anne Frackowiak-Jacobs also told France 3: "There were people who turned away when they found out it was AstraZeneca."

France was among the many European countries that briefly suspended the use of AstraZeneca in March, after a small number of people who received the jab went on to experience serious blood clots.

It reinstated the vaccine after the European Medicines Agency (EMA) advised that the benefits of AstraZeneca outweighed the risks - despite not being able to rule out a "possible link" between the jab and the thromboses cases. However, France restricted its use to people aged over 55.

More than 16.7 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have so far been administered in France, with 4.4 million people now fully immunised.

Close to 3.8 million of the doses administered were from AstraZeneca, while the majority - around 12 million - have been from Pfizer/BioNtech and the remaining 1.2 million were from Moderna, according to the website CovidTracker.

The French authorities have also said they intend to proceed with Johnson & Johnson despite the American pharmaceutical having delayed the European rollout of its Janssen jab amid similar blood clot concerns. It will, like AstraZeneca, be restricted to people over the age of 55.

AstraZeneca has also drawn the ire of Brussels after it failed to deliver its contracted doses in the first quarter and said it would only deliver about half what it intended to in the three months to June.

European officials have indicated the Commission may not renew its contract with the Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical due to the delays.

Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton told French television on Sunday that the EU "had ordered 120 million doses for the first quarter and 180 million for the second quarter. 

"It turns out that in the first quarter they [AstraZeneca] only delivered 30 million, which created problems that everyone saw... they are only delivering 70 million in the second quarter."

"We are pragmatic. My priority as head of vaccines is to ensure that those we contract with deliver exactly on time, or even more," he added.

Brussels has negotiated the acquisition of vaccines with multiple producers and announced earlier this week that it has launched new negotiations with Pfizer to acquire a further 1.8 billion doses for delivery between 2021 and 2023.

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