Europe’s faltering immunisation programme has been hit by a boycott of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine by medical staff concerned about its side effects and doubtful of its efficacy against new variants of Covid-19.

Health workers in France and elsewhere in the EU are declining the Anglo-Swedish vaccine, increasingly portrayed in European media as a cheap and inferior alternative to the mRNA jabs made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.

“It’s all about balance between risk and benefit,” said Jérôme Marty, a GP and leader of a French doctors’ union, who insisted last week it should not be given to medical staff. “We know that this vaccine is less effective than the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna ones.” In Germany, only 107,000 of the 740,000 Oxford-AstraZeneca doses distributed had been

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