Covid France: How the new mass vaccination centres will work

We explain what is known so far about the new vaccinodromes, as President Macron says that vaccinations should take place ‘morning, noon, and night’

24 March 2021
By Hannah Thompson

France has confirmed that at least 35 giant ‘megacentre vaccinodromes’ will open across the country by April. We explain what is known about them so far and how they will work.

Health Minister Olivier Véran this week confirmed: “The health service and the army will work to develop a certain number of giant vaccination centres - we might call them ‘vaccinodromes’ or ‘megacentres’, whatever name you want to use.”

Read more: Covid France: 35 mass vaccine centres to open with army help

Mr Véran stated his goal of having “10 million people vaccinated with at least one dose by mid-April”, with the campaign rollout set to speed up next month “because supplies of the vaccine will rise”.

Junior economy minister Agnès Pannier-Runacher told news service BFMTV that the rollout of vaccinations would now speed up, as it was reaching the next phase.

She said: “We have finished with the vaccination phase in elderly care homes, which was a bit more complex. This phase is behind us, and we can now expand vaccination [further].”

We explain what we know so far about the new vaccinodrome centres.

How many vaccinodromes will there be?

The government has so far confirmed plans for 35 centres, including one in the Stade de France in Paris. 

But the health minister has said that his long-term goal is to have “one or two megacenters per department”, which equates to “100 to 200” across the entire country.

How many vaccinations will each centre give?

They will aim to give 1,000 to 2,000 per day. In comparison, the average number of doses given at current vaccination centres is 500 per week.

The megacentres are set to receive and store the increased numbers of vaccine doses that are expected to be delivered in April. These will especially include Pfizer vaccines, but not exclusively.

A government statement said: “Even just for this vaccine [Pfizer], we will see deliveries more than double between the end of March and April, equating to almost two million weekly injections.

“The objective is to inject a million doses through these megacentres in April.”

Who will set them up?

The army and firefighters are helping to install these centres, along with assistance from l’Assurance maladie. This is to help the centres “go up very quickly in different areas, depending on need”, said the health minister.

Mr Véran said this week: “The armed forces health service is going to work on developing a number of large vaccination centres…[they will be] deployed by both the army and the fire service across the country."

But he explained that it will be up to the “different areas, in consultation with regional health agencies and prefects, to decide on their location and to prepare a local plan for vaccination. This could rely on these 35 megacentres but also go beyond them”.

 

Where are some of the most notable sites?

The Stade de France in Seine-Saint-Denis is the main one announced so far, and is set to open on April 6. It comes after the Vélodrome de Marseille was also set up to give vaccinations some weeks ago. 

The Stade de France location has been particularly welcomed as the department has been seriously affected by the pandemic. The incidence rate is at 683 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants over the past seven days; far higher than the 250 “alert” threshold.

Intensive care services in the department are overwhelmed, and only 6.24% of residents have so far received at least one vaccination dose, compared to the national average of 9.19%.

Mathieu Hanotin, mayor of Saint-Denis, told BFMTV: “I am not a fan of war metaphors, but it’s clear that we should put all the weapons we have on the battlefield.”

The town of Saint-Denis is set to employ 60 people, and the department of Seine-Saint-Denis will employ 100 people - all from the local area - to staff the centre.

Mr Hanotin said that the Stade de France site would be aiming to vaccinate “2,000 people per day”, after a “warm-up period of three or four days”.

He added: “The Stade de France is a common heritage site for everyone in France. It sends a very beautiful message to use this location - which is known for its joys and sporting victories; and its pain, with the terrorist attacks; to give the public back some hope.”

The mayor said that the idea is for the stadium centre to “function at least six days a week, and seven days if we have enough doses. If we have the doses, we will extend the opening hours, including into the evenings”.

The mayor’s comments echo those of President Emmanuel Macron, who said this week that vaccinations should take place “morning, noon, and night”.

During a visit to the Nord department, the President said that the vaccination campaign would be “at the heart of the battle in the coming weeks and months” against Covid-19.

He said: “We are fighting to get doses. We will change the game from April. There are no weekends or holidays for vaccinations.”

Mr Macron added that France was fighting to get the promised numbers of AstraZeneca doses, after the company announced further delivery delays.

He said: “The next few days will be a fight to try, as much as possible, to get them, and to put extremely strong pressure on [AstraZeneca] to honour these contracts.” He added that the EU was also “very motivated on the issue”.

The President also confirmed that the Janssen vaccine, from Johnson & Johnson - which has now been approved by the EU - would “allow more and more vaccines to arrive”.

It will allow France to have “targeted campaigns for professions that are most at-risk, who we are asking the most from, of which teachers are absolutely included”, he said.

Senior infectologist Professor Odile Launay also told RTL Matin this week that vaccinating “morning, noon and night” was “more than possible, and is actually desirable”.

What other vaccination solutions are being considered?

Other methods to speed up the vaccination process are also being considered. 

Mr Véran has said that while the 35 vaccinodromes will be a “good base”, they will not replace other important vaccination centres, nor stop other, smaller vaccination centres from being set up where needed.

Laurent Degallaix, mayor of Valenciennes in Nord, suggested the idea of “drive-in vaccination centres” to FranceInfo this week.

He said: “People could sign up for a medical visit at home, receive a QR code, and then come in their car to be vaccinated.”

He then said that these “vaccidrives” could send vaccinated patients to “a car park with a giant screen, where we show them a film about the hospital or the town, for the 15 minutes necessary after vaccination, and then they can leave”.

His suggestion has been cautiously welcomed by the government’s “vaccination taskforce”, with a statement saying: “We are not excluding this idea at all, we are not against it; but for the moment, the megacentres are the solution that will allow us to best maximise the rollout”.

It comes as the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region is also considering opening lycée sports halls during the school holidays, to act as larger vaccination centres for an “intensive campaign” over two weeks.

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