The Mayor of Calais today said that the ‘final blow’ came on Friday with more damaging news associating the vaccine with sporadic blood clotting cases.
Natacha Bouchart, who has been highly critical of the government, said that there had been a ‘wave of panic’ over AstraZeneca which will be difficult to overcome.
Medics have reported people turning down the inoculation in droves, despite it being a key part of the country’s planned route out of the pandemic.
This is because Mr Macon has performed a series of U-turns over the highly effective vaccine, which was developed by Oxford University for Anglo-Swedish manufacturer AstraZeneca.
French President Emmanuel Macron smiles during his visit to the Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) Unit at Alpes-Isere Hospital in the French Alps last week
Political opponents suggested the notoriously anti-Brexit president had only questioned its safety and effectiveness so as to attack the UK.
Mayor of Calais, Ms Bouchart, said that reports of blood clotting on Friday led to a huge number of refusals.
‘It’s more than a wave of panic – it’s been going on for a week, and Friday was the final blow,’ said Ms Bouchart.
Referring to alternative vaccines, she added: ‘There really has to be a national campaign to explain that this vaccine has no more negative consequences than the ones from Pfizer or Moderna.’
Beyond hundreds turning down AstraZeneca in central Calais, Dr Thierry Mraovic said ‘some 600 doses’ had also been returned to the manufacturer in nearby Gravelines.
‘There have been at least 1500 cancellations in the Hauts-de-France alone,’ said a health service source in the northern region.
‘We are aware of others turning AstraZeneca down in many other parts of the country, and it is all because of a lack of confidence in the vaccination shown by the President.’
Dr Mraovic said the risk of blood clots was in fact exceptionally small compared to the benefits of using AstraZeneca.
Some 4.7 million AstraZeneca shots have so far been bought by France, but only 2.3 million given out, according to figures from European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
Mr Macron announced that the use of AstraZeneca was being suspended last month ‘as a precaution’.
He at first said it was dangerous for people aged over 65, and then reviewed this to say that those under 55 should avoid it.
This was around the time that Mr Macron’s own prime minister, Jean Castex, was having an AstraZeneca jab.
‘We have a simple guide, to be informed by science and the competent heath authorities and to do it as part of a European strategy,’ Mr Macron said at the time, but it later emerged that he making his own decisions over the heads of medical advisors.
A nurse is seen through a window in the room of a Covid-19 patient under respiratory assistance at the intensive care unit at Valenciennes Hospital on Tuesday
Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said on Sunday that more work was needed to persuade people that AstraZeneca was safe adding: ‘We have to pay attention to the fears of the French.
‘The challenge at the beginning of the summer will be less to meet demand from people than going out to look for the people who are hesitating. We have to convince them.’
Mr Macron has plunged the whole of France into a third lockdown as the number of new Covid-19 cases reaches some 50,000 a day.
Last week he said that ‘vaccinations, vaccinations, vaccinations’ were the key to getting out of the pandemic.
Some 1 million people had the AstraZeneca jab before he started complaining about it, leading to many saying they had been treated like guinea pigs.
Covid jabs are administered at Stade de France in a bid to boost sluggish vaccine rollout
France has started administering shots of the COVID-19 vaccine inside the Stade de France, the national stadium that once hosted soccer’s World Cup final.
Queues of people snaked around the concourse, but where under usual circumstances they would have been lining up for a sports event, on Tuesday they were waiting for their jabs as part of a French bid to speed up its vaccination programme.
Inside the stadium, a space that in pre-pandemic times hosted conferences and VIP dinners had been fitted out with tents that were being used as cubicles to administer the vaccine.
‘The Stade de France, which is a place of celebration, which is the temple of sporting feats in our country, has been at a standstill for nearly 400 days,’ Pierre Coppey, an executive with one of the stadium’s co-owners, told reporters.
People arrive at the Stade de France stadium to be vaccinated against Covid-19 in Saint-Denis, outside Paris, Tuesday
‘What we can do here, by mobilising this vaccination centre, is speed up the return to a normal life,’ he said.
France needs to accelerate vaccinations because of a new wave of COVID-19 infections. Doctors say intensive care units in parts of the country are at risk of being overwhelmed by patients sick with the virus.
France is one of several European Union states re-vamping its vaccination rollout to make up lost ground.
Around 13% of the French population has been given at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, while in nearby Britain the figure is at 47%, according to Reuters data.
The 80,000-seat Stade de France was the venue of the 1998 soccer World Cup final, won by the home team, and it also hosted the 2007 Rugby World Cup final.
Stadium managers say the handful of matches and concerts scheduled for the next few months can still go ahead, despite the opening of the vaccination centre.