At Brest University Hospital, 20-25 % of those vaccinated had to stop work in the first week after the vaccine was introduced due to symptoms such as severe headache, high fever and muscle pain. (February 23, 2021)

The experimental vaccine

AstraZeneca’s experimental COVID-19 vaccine, currently administered to healthcare workers in France, has caused so many side effects that the French vaccination working group (Conseil d’orientation de la stratégie vaccinale) recommended “staggering the vaccination schedule for people working in the same care unit” and “systematically taking paracetamol just before the injection and in the two days following”.

The French restrictions on AstraZeneca’s injections follow a series of adverse incidents at several hospitals in different parts of the country where staff have been vaccinated en masse since the campaign began on 5 February. They have been so numerous that hospitals have faced staff shortages in intensive care units. In one hospital, half the physiotherapists were on sick leave at the same time after the vaccination.

In France’s westernmost city, the University Hospital of Brest in Brittany was particularly hard hit. In the first week of the campaign, 20 to 25 percent of those vaccinated had to stop work due to flu symptoms such as severe headaches, high fever and muscle aches. As a result, hospital managers took the decision to suspend vaccinations.

Similar scenarios

Similar scenarios played out in other hospitals in Brittany and were documented by local media in cities such as Quimper and Morlaix. In the city of Vannes, 18 percent of vaccinated health workers were forced to take sick leave after vaccination.

In Normandy, the Saint-Lô hospital suspended vaccinations on 11 February after ten of the 50 or so staff vaccinated on 10 February developed symptoms of fever and nausea. By that date, 10,000 injections had been administered to health workers and 149 “pharmacovigilance declarations” had been issued.

In the Dordogne, near Bordeaux, hospital workers no longer want to receive the AstraZeneca injection, according to local media, as the “hygiene and safety committee” of the Périgueux hospital reported that a “significant number” – between 50 and 70 percent – of those who received it “experienced very serious side effects,” compared to a “tolerance level” of about 10 percent.

Adverse effects

As of February 16, no fewer than 363 adverse effects (“pseudo-influenza syndromes” of high intensity in most cases) had been officially reported in France among healthcare workers aged 50 or younger (average age 31) following administration of the AstraZeneca injection. This did not stop the French health authorities from announcing that the frequent side effects “do not call into question the risk-benefit ratio of the vaccine”.

This is remarkable considering that the risk of getting sick after SARS-CoV-2 infection is very low at this age, while the vaccine, which has only a 62 to 70 percent “efficacy rate,” appears to actually cause serious symptoms. At least enough to prevent about one in five of the youngest vaccinated people from working.


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