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France will offer an alternative to AstraZeneca Plc’s Covid-19 shot for those under the age of 55 who have already had their first jab with the product, a further sign that concern over rare blood clots is hindering vaccination efforts against the coronavirus.

The change of recommendation affects 532,000 under 55s who took the shot until France suspended its use in the age group last month, said Dominique Le Guludec, the head of French health authority HAS.

The health authority now recommends using an inoculation based on messenger RNA instead for a second shot. France is using two vaccines, one from Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE and the other from Moderna Inc., based on that technology.

The French move comes in response to evidence that the vaccine is linked to a rare type of blood clotting. Despite the risks, the European Union regulator -- and its British counterpart -- this week said the AstraZeneca product’s benefits outweigh its risks, that the clot occurrences are rare and that the shot should remain a vital tool in the pandemic fight.

Le Guludec said France still recommends using the AstraZeneca vaccine for over 55s as more than 95% of deaths from Covid-19 are in that age group and the risks of blood clotting linked to the inoculation are lower in older patients.

“This vaccine will save lives and if we want to win the battle against the virus, we have to use all the weapons we have," Le Guludec said.

The continent’s immunization program has been bogged down by poor planning and supply delays, with controversy and policy U-turns on the AstraZeneca vaccine also hurting the rollout.

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