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Covid-19 roundup May 12: AstraZeneca aversion and vaccine target fail

Two million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine are still to be used, affecting government targets. We summarise the key pandemic updates

12 May 2021

France is not going to hit its target of giving a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine to 20 million people by mid-May, the prime minister has admitted. This is due to people’s hesitancy to take AstraZeneca’s vaccine.

Elsewhere, the government is pushing on with plans to roll out a Covid-19 health pass, the vaccination campaign is expanding and next week more restrictions will be eased.  

We round up the latest stories about Covid-19 in France. 

AstraZeneca aversion

The goal of giving a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine to 20 million people by May 15 will not be reached, Prime Minister Jean Castex stated on Tuesday evening (May 11).

The objective was set by President Emmanuel Macron.

Mr Castex said the failure is due to reticence in over-55s to get vaccinated with AstraZeneca’s vaccine. He said that there are currently two million doses of the vaccine in fridges around the country, not being used.

AstraZeneca’s reputation has suffered as the vaccine has been linked to very rare cases of blood clots. The rollout of the vaccine was temporarily suspended in France in March in relation to this. 

As of May 10, France has given a first dose of a vaccine to over 18 million people and is administering between 200,000 to 300,000 first doses each day. If that rate is maintained, France will be very close to the target of 20 million by May 15, but will most probably fall short. 

First case of Indian variant found in Hauts-de-France

A patient living in the Hauts-de-France region has been found positive with the Indian variant of Covid-19, the first such case detected in the region. 

The latest government update states that 11 cases of the variant have been found overall in France.

The patient, a man of Indian nationality, is now in self isolation and is being monitored by the regional health agency (ARS). 

He tested positive for Covid-19 on May 2. 

The local ARS stated that three of the man’s close contacts were identified and are also isolating and are being monitored. 

Anyone who returns to France from India must be tested for Covid-19, with that test then analysed to check for variants. 

The Indian variant of Covid-19, known scientifically as B.1.617.2, is thought to be more contagious but more analysis is needed, French epidemiologist Catherine Hill has stated.

Plan your holiday around vaccination doses

France’s health ministry has called on people who have not yet been vaccinated against Covid-19 to plan their holidays around their vaccination appointments. It is planned that on an EU level, vaccination doses will be sent to certain tourist destinations, but this should only be used if necessary, the ministry stated. 

Spare vaccine doses open to all

France has opened up its Covid-19 vaccination programme to all over-18s who can now book an appointment for an injection if spare doses are available the following day.

Until now vaccine slots have been reserved for certain age groups and those with underlying medical conditions – and were opened up to all over 50s on Monday (May 10).

Now all adults can benefit from spare doses and last-minute appointments, rather than allowing vaccines to go to waste or having to wait until June 15, when all adults in France become eligible for inoculations.

Read more about how to book an appointment in our article here

Vite Ma Dose hoax

A website has been set up under a similar domain name to the Vite Ma Dose website, an online tool that allows users to rapidly find Covid-19 vaccination appointments in their area.

Vite Ma Dose has been recommended by the French government and can be found at the domain name: vitemadose.covidtracker.fr

A website, riding on the popularity of that name, has been set up under the name: vitemadose[dot]fr. The imitation website states that its purpose is to inform people about the Covid-19 vaccinations. It features a long video where unfounded scientific conclusions are made about the vaccinations. 

The French government has its own web page dedicated to explaining Covid-19 vaccinations, which can be found here

The founder of Vite Ma Dose - the appointment booking site - Tweeted out a warning for people not to go to the wrong web page.

A health pass coming 

The French parliament has approved plans for a Covid health pass that will facilitate foreign travel and be required for access to large events (those with more than 1,000 people, the prime minister has said) from June 9.

The health pass will show that the holder has had a negative Covid test in recent days, has a certificate of vaccination, or proof of having recovered to full health after a recent Covid infection.

Read more here.

State of health emergency to end

The French parliament has agreed a law that will see the state of health emergency end on June 1 and be replaced the following day with a transitional period that will run until the end of September.

During the four-month transition period, the prime minister can continue to implement measures by decree that are “in the interest of public health and for the sole purpose of combating the spread of the Covid-19 epidemic”.

A lockdown on a national level will no longer be legally possible.

The government will, though, retain the right to place up to 10% of the population under lockdown, by decree, in any areas where Covid-19 continues to pose a threat.

It will also be permitted to close shops under the same rule.

These measures would only be allowed for one month maximum, otherwise a new Parliament vote would be necessary.

The national night-time curfew, currently in place between 19:00 and 06:00 but set to be gradually pushed back, will still be legally permitted under the transition period and will be continued until the end of June.

Read more here.

Next step of restriction easing in one week

On May 19, the nationwide curfew will be pushed back to 21:00 and restaurant terraces, shops, cinemas and museums will reopen, with health protocols in place.

This will be followed by further lifting of restrictions on June 9 and June 30.

Read more about France’s easing of restrictions here. 

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