France’s health minister receives AstraZeneca jab

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France’s health minister has received the first injection of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine at a hospital near Paris.

Olivier Veran argued that the jab was providing enough protection against almost all coronavirus spreading in the country.

France received its first batch of AstraZeneca vaccines last week, representing 273,600 doses all reserved for health professionals under 65, which includes Mr Veran, a neurologist.

Mr Veran’s comments come after South Africa suspended plans to inoculate its frontline healthcare workers with the AstraZeneca vaccine as a small clinical trial suggested that it is not effective in preventing mild to moderate illness from the variant dominant in the country.

Mr Veran said “at least 99%” of the virus circulating in France does not correspond to the variant widely spread in South Africa, which makes the AstraZeneca vaccine effective on the French territory.

Mr Veran said new measures are being implemented to avoid further spreading of variants imported from other parts of the world, including the one that was first identified in the UK.

The period of self-isolation for any person infected with one of the variants, or suspected to be, has been extended from seven to 10 days, he said.

Measures also include quicker contact tracing efforts and instructions to close school classes as soon as one student has been infected with a variant.

Meanwhile in Brazil, a minority of people will be able to pay for a Covid-19 vaccine if an association of private clinics can close a deal to bring five million shots to Latin America’s most unequal country.

President Jair Bolsonaro, under fire for his government’s handling of the pandemic, has promised not to interfere.

Amid the government’s stumbling vaccine rollout, many rich Brazilians want to find a swift path to vaccination, sparking a backlash from some public health experts and igniting debate on social media, editorial pages and talk shows.

There has been concern globally that the privileged could use the system to get themselves vaccinated before others.

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