Covid France: 114,000 in recent protests but 1.5 million get first jab

Protests took place in several cities against plans to extend use of the health pass, but numbers show the measure has boosted demand for vaccination 

20 July 2021
Older person getting vaccinated. Covid France: 114,000 in recent protests but 1.5 million get first jab

While demand for first doses has gobe up, 1.7million people in France aged over 65 have not yet been vaccinated Pic: Rido / Shutterstock

By Joanna York

In the space of one week over 4.5million doses of the Covid vaccine have been administered in France, with more than 1.5million of these being first doses.

This represents a 40% rise in demand for doses since last week and comes following protests on July 17 that saw 114,000 people take to the streets to oppose extending the use of the French health pass (pass sanitaire).

The new rules, announced by President Emmanuel Macron on July 12, will make it mandatory to use a health pass to access a wide range of public spaces, including restaurants, gyms and some trains, from July 21 onwards.

Read more: What changes with France’s Covid health pass on July 21

The health pass will show the bearer has either been fully vaccinated, has a negative test result taken within 48 hours, or has previously had Covid and is considered immune.

Although it will not be mandatory to get vaccinated to use the pass, PCR and antigen tests will no longer be free without a prescription from autumn, while getting vaccinated will remain free.

Read more: €49 for a PCR test without prescription from autumn 

The rules have been criticised as an attack on civil liberties by protestors, but figures show that they have boosted demand for vaccination in France. 

90% of adults could have first dose by September 

Data from medical reservation site Doctolib shows that seven million people have made an appointment for a first dose before August 31, bringing the government objective of giving 45million first doses by September (equivalent to 90% of the adult population) in sight. 

Currently, 37.8million people have received a first dose of the vaccine in France, figures from the health ministry from July 19 show. 

A total of 30.8million people are fully vaccinated, with 10million second dose appointments reserved on Doctolib before August 31.

Institut Pasteur previously calculated that a 90% rate of vaccination among adults could be enough to provide herd immunity, but this was before the arrival of the highly contagious Delta variant. 

In the new circumstances, the Institut Pasteur says that, in addition to 90% of adults, 65% of 12-17-year-olds and 95% of people over 60 would also have to be vaccinated.

The difficulty may come in raising vaccination levels among older generations.

In the past week, 85% of vaccine appointments have been made by people aged over 50, with only 100,000 were made by people aged over 65.

In this age group there are still 1.7million people in France who have not been vaccinated, and a total first-dose vaccination rate of just 83% among over 60s. 

In an attempt to raise numbers among older generations in France, GPs have been given access to a list of unvaccinated patients and France's national insurance service Assurance maladie is organising ‘fast-track’ vaccine reservation slots by SMS and telephone. 

60million doses delivered to France by end of September 

There are also fears that demand for vaccine appointments peaked directly after the president’s speech on July 12, and will now start to fall.

During the week of July 12-16 demand rose by 35% on the previous week, but went down to a 20% increase by the weekend. 

Doctolib said there may be other explanations for this. 

A representative told Le Figaro: “There are always fewer reservations made over the weekends, and availability is not the same everywhere as centres need to organise around the holiday period to make sure they have staff to welcome and vaccinate patients.”

Deliveries of vaccine stock are also set to fall slightly over summer from 22million doses in July to 14million in August, with an additional surplus of seven million from June.

A further 21million doses set to be delivered in September would make it possible to vaccinate 60million people in France in total, meaning 100% of people aged over 12 years old.

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