Vaccine rollouts in France and Germany have finally begun to pick up speed, after a slow start and problems with supplies and bureaucracy.

France continues to struggle to contain a third Covid-19 wave, but announced it had hit its 10 million inoculations target a week earlier than expected, while Germany doubled the number of vaccinations, administering a record 720,000 doses on Thursday after the rollout was extended to family doctors.

German health minister Jens Spahn said the country was heading towards giving 3.5 million vaccinations a week by the start of May, aiming to cover the population by the end of summer.

French health minister Olivier Véran said the country had delivered a record 510,000 vaccinations on Friday after opening the first of 40 mass vaccine centres across the country, including at the Stade de France stadium.

People line up outside a vaccination centre in Berlin
People line up outside a vaccination centre in Berlin on Thursday. Many of them had arrived there in taxis, paid for by the state. Photograph: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

The good news was tempered, however, by AstraZeneca’s announcement of further delays to vaccine deliveries. The Anglo-Swedish company warned the EU, Iceland and Norway it would be delivering only half the 2.6 million doses promised for the coming week due to production problems. The EU has said it is looking to acquire a further 1.8 billion doses of what it called “second generation” vaccines to inoculate the continent’s children and adolescents and combat emerging coronavirus variants. The contract will be for 900 million doses with an option on a further 900 million to be used in 2022 and 2023.

President Emmanuel Macron visited a laboratory bottling the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine on Friday, promising: “In 2021 we will produce in our territory 250 million vaccine doses for France and Europe.”

Thierry Breton, European commissioner in charge of the EU vaccine task force, says the aim of having 70% of member states’ populations vaccinated by mid July is “achievable”, but added: “It would have been even sooner had AstraZeneca delivered all the doses that were ordered.”

AstraZeneca is limited to over-55s in France, but health officials said 533,000 people under that age who have had their first AstraZeneca dose would be offered a different second vaccine. Germany, which has restricted AstraZeneca vaccine use to the over- 60s, has issued the same advice, despite the World Health Organization concluding that at the current time there was inadequate data to recommend mixing different vaccines.

As experts investigate the deaths of four people in France from thrombosis following AstraZeneca inoculations, including a 24-year-old medical student from Nantes, prime minister Jean Castex visited a hospital and vaccination centre on Saturday to reassure people that the the benefits of the vaccine outweighed the risks.

This content first appear on the guardian

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