France said today that patients who have already had Covid-19 should only be given one dose of a vaccine. This makes it the first country to adopt such a strategy, potentially releasing millions of doses while the whole EU is about shock supply.
Health officials said a single dose would be enough to remind the body how to fight off the virus, since a previous infection would already have triggered an immune response similar to a first shot.
With 3.4 million people infected in France last year, the new council will reduce stuttering requirements in France as it fights against botched EU purchases, rigid bureaucracy and high levels of vaccine skepticism.
It also comes after France attacked the UK for its own deviation from the two-dose strategy – a move that helped the UK vaccinate six times more people than France did so far.
France has so far delivered 3.5 doses per 100 people, below the EU level of 4.2 and well below the UK level of 20.0
The three EU-approved vaccines – Pfizer, Moderna, and AstraZeneca – are all given in two doses, as studies have shown that they are effective in this way.
However, preliminary scientific evidence has shown that a single shot can produce a “very robust response” in people who have already battled the infection.
A study of 59 health workers who had recovered from Covid-19 found that they had higher antibody levels after just one push than most people after two doses.
A separate study found that 41 Covid-19 survivors had antibody levels 10 to 20 times higher after a dose than people who had not previously been infected.
“The data presented in these two articles are not surprising, but very reassuring,” said immunologist Professor Eleanor Riley of the University of Edinburgh earlier this month.
“Both articles show that a previous infection with Covid-19 causes the immune system to be very robust to a single dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.”
Dr. Peter English, former chairman of the BMA Public Health Medicine Committee, said the papers “describe exactly what science would predict”.
“It would be perfectly reasonable to focus the second booster dose of the vaccine on people who didn’t have a natural primer,” he said.
The French health authority has now adopted this approach and has declared that those who are already infected should not get a sting for at least three months after recovery and possibly for up to six months.
“A single dose of vaccine will also play a role in reminding people’s immune systems how to fight Covid-19, the health authority said.
“At the moment, no country has clearly positioned itself on a single dose of vaccine for people who have already received Covid-19,” it added.
French President Emmanuel Macron pictured has been criticized for questioning the effectiveness of the AstraZeneca vaccine as the country struggles to accelerate the rollout of jabs