France Won’t Delay Second Covid Vaccine Dose, Citing Risks From New Variants

France decided not to delay second doses of the Covid-19 vaccine from Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE, shunning the advice of its health authority and citing risks and uncertainties in the face of new variants.

“We are facing a degree of unknown and uncertainty,” Health Minister Olivier Veran said Tuesday at a press conference in Paris. “There’s a lack of scientific consensus. So I’m making a choice based on validated data that we fully understand.”

Veran and Alain Fischer, a vaccination expert who advises the government, pointed to a lack of reliable information about the protection conferred by the first dose alone, especially in the elderly. There’s also no clarity on whether the delay would affect overall protection after the second dose as more contagious variants continue to spread.

Besides the risks, a delay would only raise vaccination numbers temporarily, according to Veran.

France will therefore administer the second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine within 21 to 28 days of the first. Veran cited similar decisions in neighboring countries such as Germany. The U.K. and some other countries decided to extend the time between doses in an effort to speed initial shots and get at least partial protection for more people.

In making the decision, Veran broke with the advice of the country’s top health authority, which the government usually follows. The Haute Autorite de Sante on Saturday said it favored delaying the second dose to six weeks after the first injection. Veran didn’t mention the Moderna Inc. immunization, which was included in the agency’s advice.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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