Covid vaccine: People in France will be consulted

The health minister is waiting for vaccine approval before "building trust" in France, as vaccine creator predicts a return to normal next winter

16 November 2020
Medic giving injection in upper arm. People in France will be ‘consulted’ over taking a Covid-19 vaccine, the health minister has said.The health minister said there were still many health and safety questions to answer before a vaccine could be approved in France
By Joanna York

Health Minister Olivier Véran has said he will “consult” people in France “at every stage” towards the introduction of vaccination against Covid-19.

Speaking in an interview with the Ebra group, Mr Véran said: “I will make sure that people in France are consulted at every stage to create trust. The campaign for vaccination will only start when we have enough guarantees that we can safely vaccinate everybody in France.”

This comes as a senior politician in France has suggested that vaccination against the virus should be mandatory, amid growing reluctance against vaccination amongst the French.

A survey of 15 countries released earlier this month showed the French were the most reticent about getting vaccinated against Covid-19, with their willingness to get vaccinated having decreased since September 2020. 

Read more: France poll: 46% would decline Covid vaccination

Health minister warns against getting ‘ahead of ourselves'

Mr Véran said recent promising results from Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine trials “could be very good news, but we must not get ahead of ourselves”. 

He added that testing was still underway and that the group had still not provided complete results from its vaccine trials.  

Testing for the Pfizer vaccine is now in stage 3 – the final stage before successful products can be released on the market. Pfizer and BioNTech have reported that their vaccine against Covid-19 works with 90% effectiveness.

But Mr Véran said that important questions had still not been answered. These included: “Do people who have received the vaccine have more unwanted side effects than those who took the placebo? What kind of side effects are there, and are they benign or serious? Have those who were vaccinated and still developed Covid-19 developed benign or serious forms of the illness?”

He also raised questions about storage of the vaccine, which must be kept at -80C prior to being injected.

 

Progressive dosage strategy to be implemented

The health minister said that if the vaccine were to be approved, demand would be so high that a “progressive dosing” strategy would have to be used over many months, to decide who would have access and when.

Health body la Haute autorité de santé are in the process of deciding which segments of the population should be vaccinated first and have promised to prioritise those most at risk.

Meanwhile, the director of BioNTech has predicted a return to normal as by next winter, thanks to the vaccine the company has developed with Pfizer. 

In an interview with the BBC, Professor Urgr Sahin said: “I am very confident that transmission between people will be reduced by such a highly effective vaccine - maybe not 90% but maybe 50% - but we should not forget that even that could result in a dramatic reduction of the pandemic spread”

He said the vaccine could be on the market “at the end of this year, beginning of next year”. Vaccination could then could continue throughout spring, with infection rates naturally falling in summer, 2021. 

He added: “What is absolutely essential is that we get a high vaccination rate until or before autumn/winter next year.”

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