French health minister reaffirms support for AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine

French Health Minister Veran speaks to the press after receiving a dose of the AstraZeneca-Oxford COVID-19 vaccine, in Melun

PARIS - French Health Minister Olivier Veran said on Monday that he continued to support the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine, arguing it provided sufficient protection against "nearly all the variants" of the virus.

Veran was shown on French television receiving the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre in the city of Melun, in the Paris region.

"The AstraZeneca vaccine reinforces and amplifies our vaccination strategy", Veran told reporters.

"We do our best to prevent the spread of variants", he also said.

A British junior health minister said on Monday there was no evidence that the AstraZeneca vaccine did not prevent death or serious illness, and added South Africa had only imposed a temporary halt on using the vaccine.

South Africa decided to put on hold use of AstraZeneca's COVID-19 shot in its vaccination programme after data showed it gave minimal protection against mild-to-moderate infection caused by the country's dominant coronavirus variant.

(Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta, Dominique Vidalon and Matthieu Protard; Editing by Jon Boyle and Louise Heavens)