European doctors are snubbing the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine after a concerted EU campaign casting doubts on its effectiveness.
Mild 'side effects' including high temperatures and headaches have been reported by a small percentage of medical staff on the continent, despite there being no evidence of such occurrences in the UK, where the jab has been rolled out even more widely.
As Brussels missteps in its vaccine procurement process became clear, and it demanded that AstraZeneca ramp up supplies to Europe, French President Emmanuel Macron attempted to 'manage demand' for the vaccine by questioning its effectiveness in the over-65s.
'What I can tell you officially today is that the early results we have are not encouraging for 60 to 65-year-old people concerning AstraZeneca,' he said.
And the German regulator also raised questions by failing to approve it for the over-65s.
Both statements were based on the relatively small number of over-65s in the original clinical trial of the Oxford vaccine.
But their claims have been debunked by the World Health Organisation last week which officially recommended the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine for people over the age of 65 and said it should be used 'without an upper age limit'.
A health worker administers a dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine to a woman at a vaccination center set up in Fiumicino, near Rome's international airport
It came after scientists slammed spurious claims published in German newspapers Handelsblatt and Bild which said government sources had warned the jab only appeared to be eight per cent effective but didn't publish any data to prove it.
Oxford University rubbished the report, saying there was 'no basis' for the allegation, and that their data has already been 'released transparently'.
AstraZeneca, manufacturing the jab on behalf of Oxford, said it was 'completely incorrect'.
And scientists added they had 'no idea' where the figure has come from, adding that it was not proved by research on the vaccine.
Despite EU rancour last month, the European Medicines Agency, the Bloc's regulator, then granted approval to the AstraZeneca vaccine for all age groups.
Furthermore, Oxford researchers said the jab appears to be between 62 and 90 per cent effective in the adult population in general.
Despite the growing evidence, however, scepticism remains in large areas on the continent.
In France, where anti-vax sentiment is high, 149 cases of 'high-intensity flu symptoms' were reported among the 10,000 recipients of the vaccine. No such concerns have been raised in the UK.
Some 10,000 health care personnel have been vaccinated so far, but officials are concerned by the number of patients complaining of aches and high temperatures.
Hospitals and other health facilities have been told to stagger the rollout of jabs so as not to disrupt services, while it has not been offered at all to those over 65 after President Macron said it didn't appear to work on people in that age bracket.
France Info, a state news radio station, said health chiefs were 'trying to avoid receiving AstraZeneca doses, which they regard as third rate compared with 'the Rolls-Royce' produced by Pfizer-BioNTech'.
Meanwhile in Italy, private doctors who queued up for jabs were also dismissive of the effect of the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab.
Some staff even demanded a Pfizer dose instead, with one doctor who refused the jab offered telling La Stampa: 'How come they even vaccinated hospital gardeners with more efficient vaccines while us doctors, who risk infection every day or risk infecting others, get offered something less efficient?'
European doctors are snubbing the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, claiming it is less effective and that those who've received the jab are suffering side effects
Stocks of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine have been used for Italy's priority groups of patients, with AstraZeneca doses then being offered to younger people.
Similarly to France, Italian health chief have limited its use to those under 55 due to limited tests on the elderly but also as it estimates effectiveness is at just 59% after two doses.
This compares with estimates of 95% with the Pfizer jab and 94.1% for the Moderna vaccine.
A health spokesman was quoted by the Times as saying: 'Since Pfizer and Moderna are more efficient, we want to keep them for older, more vulnerable Italians.'