France has approved use of the Oxford/AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine in people with existing health problems aged between 65 and 74.
It means previous advice – that the jab should be for under-65s only – has been reversed.
In late January, President Emmanuel Macron claimed the British-developed vaccine was “quasi-ineffective” in those of pensionable age.
But last week he said he would accept the inoculation, and now German Chancellor Angela Merkel is being urged not only to adopt the same stance, but to have the Oxford jab herself.
Germany still doesn’t recommend the jab for over-65s, but updated advice is expected soon.
France initially said that data from trials in older age groups was limited, echoing the stance taken in Germany.
Since then, however, further research has provided more evidence of the vaccine’s efficacy.
As of Friday, France had used less than a quarter of the 1.1m AstraZeneca doses it had received, according to government data.
It has also been struggling with a shortage of vaccines from its other suppliers, Pfizer and Moderna.
Health Minister Olivier Veran told BFMTV: “Anybody aged 50 or over who is affected by co-morbidities can get the AstraZeneca vaccine, including those between 65 and 74.”
He added that those 75 and over would continue to get the Pfizer and Moderna jabs only.
Mr Veran said that people who have had COVID-19 in recent months will need only one dose of those two vaccines.
Recent infection acts as a partial protection against the virus, meaning a second dose isn’t essential, France’s High Authority for Health has argued.
The slowness of the vaccine rollout in the EU has led to fierce criticism from newspapers.
Filipp Piatov, head of opinion at German tabloid Bild, told Sky News the pandemic had been “the first test” after Brexit.
“Great Britain has passed and the European Union has failed,” he said, adding: “I don’t know where to start – so much went wrong.”
Mr Piatov said the situation was “especially bitter for Germans” because the Pfizer/BioNTech jab was developed there, and yet the UK and US ordered it months before the EU did.
“We just don’t know how that could happen,” he said.
Mr Piatov and his newspaper think it would be a “very strong statement from Angela Merkel” were she to get an AstraZeneca jab.
It would prove the German leader believes in the vaccine and could motivate more Germans to do the same, he said.
Last week, Germany’s health ministry said it had administered only 15% of the AstraZeneca shots it had available.
Health Minister Jens Spahn has said the jab is “strongly” recommended, adding: “This vaccine is safe and effective, it protects.
“It protects oneself and others, like both other vaccines.”