As reporters looked on, Mr Macron could not resist a thinly veiled swipe at the British.
“The goal is not to have the biggest number of first injections,” he said, referring to the UK’s strategy of spacing out the first and second doses to try to maximise the number of people who have one jab and so some degree of immunity.
He added that it was a “lie” to tell people they were vaccinated if they had had a “first dose of a vaccine that is made up of two”.
That day, the European Commission imposed export controls following a row with AstraZeneca over its failure to meet its commitment to deliver doses once the jab was approved for use within the bloc. At the heart of that row were concerns that AstraZeneca was prioritising the UK over the EU.
Members states, it was decreed, could block exports of vaccines made within the union, including the Pfizer/BioNTech injection produced in Belgium.
Germany had already held off administering AstraZeneca to seniors while awaiting proof of its efficacy, forcing it to rely on the more expensive Pfizer vaccine which was in short supply.
Angela Merkel’s first jab in April of AstraZeneca was followed by the Moderna vaccine two months later. Although mixing doses could provide greater protection, it also raised the prospect that one was better than another.
AstraZeneca’s relationship with Europe became further strained after a series of blood clots were reported in those who had had the jab.
Nearly a dozen countries, including Germany, France and Italy, temporarily suspended its use after a study suggested there was a tiny chance it led to blood clots. In some countries it was deemed more dangerous for youngsters.
Despite Mr Macron’s claims about AstraZeneca being less effective among the elderly, in March the French authorities approved its use just for its elderly.
Sitting in a Parisian vaccine centre in April, Dr Milena Wehenkel expressed her frustration about mixed messaging after only 30 or 40 people turned up a day for the jab.
“In December, nobody wanted ‘genetically manipulated’ vaccines like Pfizer, and now it’s the other way round,” she said, just as the European Medicines Agency insisted the benefits of protecting against the virus with either jab far outweighed the risks of getting the disease.
“Macron’s communication over AstraZeneca has been totally disastrous to the extent that I personally think there were political motives behind it, such as making Britain pay for Brexit or the delay in supplies.”
She was one of a number of doctors who blamed “bad press” in France for undermining the country’s vaccine programme.