29,000 GPs in France to give AstraZeneca vaccine this week
Patients between the ages of 50-64 at risk of serious forms of the illness will be eligible to receive the jab at their GP surgery
GPs in France are preparing to begin giving Covid vaccinations from this Thursday - with the first vaccines arriving today - amid concerns over storage issues and effectiveness.
A total of 29,000 GPs have volunteered to receive 10 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine - just one bottle each. The doses will be administered from Friday, February 26.
All doses will need to be given within six hours of arrival at the GP surgery if the GP does not have the means to refrigerate them.
Patients will be chosen according to priority, starting with those who are more at risk of a severe form of Covid-19. They will also need to be willing to have the vaccine, and available to attend the surgery at the given time.
Doctors taking part in the rollout are required to plan 10 appointments over one half-day for priority patients registered at their surgery.
Eligible patients will be contacted by the surgery directly.
Dr Jacques Battistoni, president of GP union MG France, told news service FranceInfo: “These will be people between age 50-64 who also have a long-standing condition, an underlying condition or who are overweight. These are people who are at risk of a severe form of the illness.
“The vaccine is not the easiest to use, in any conditions. It has 10 doses per bottle, and once you have opened the bottle, if you leave it at room temperature, you have to do all doses in six hours, otherwise you lose the entire bottle.” Potentially therefore GPs face the challenge of coordinating the vaccination of those patients most at risk within this six hour period.
Dr Jean-Paul Hamon, president of GP group la Fédération des Médecins de France, said: “We can see that production capacity is rising, but for now, we have to do with what we have.”
Professor Jérôme Salomon, director general of health, has acknowledged that “the volumes of the first deliveries [one bottle per GP] are small compared to the number of GPs involved”, but said that “two or three bottles each will arrive in the next delivery [next week]”.
He said: “The available amounts will rise gradually from March.”
Eventually, there will be enough vaccines to vaccinate a greater number of patients; and to offer those who have had the first dose, to return for their second.
Dr Hamon said that the public needs to move past the negative reputation that the AstraZeneca vaccine has had in terms of side effects and suggested lower effectiveness.
He said: “Frankly, it’s still a vaccine, which, from the first injection, is very quickly effective, protects to 70% against severe forms of the illness, and after the second dose, protects at 84%.
“So it is a vaccine that is still very effective and will allow us to slow down the epidemic. It is time to communicate about the AstraZeneca vaccine, and say that it is a good vaccine, that we must vaccinate, that people should not hesitate to be vaccinated.
“And just because one in five cases gets a fever in the 24-48 hours afterwards doesn’t make it a bad vaccine. Quite the opposite.”
Doctors in the UK and France have even said that getting side-effects after your jab is actually a good thing, because it shows that the vaccine is working and that your immune system is strong.
Dr Hamon said that involving GPs would give a much-needed push to the French vaccination campaign, which has been criticised for its slow rollout.
The latest figures show that 2,560,982 people in France have been given the first dose. A total of 1,155,637 have so far received the second - less than 2% of the population.