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Covid: Will France have enough vaccines to meet its new targets?

The short answer seems to be yes as giant ‘vaccinodromes’ prepare to open and France anticipates doses from five major vaccine sources

24 March 2021
Covid vaccination bottles. Covid: Will France have enough doses to speed up its vaccine campaign?France is anticipating millions of doses from at least five major vaccine sources
By Hannah Thompson

As France aims to speed up its vaccine campaign from next month and President Macron calls for jabs to be done “morning, noon, and night”, we look at whether dose deliveries match the plans. 

Campaign ramping up

Health Minister Olivier Véran this week said that the campaign rollout will speed up significantly next month “because supplies of the vaccine will rise”.

He also reiterated his goal of having 10 million people vaccinated with at least one dose by mid-April.

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

The country is also set to open at least 35 - and possibly as many as 100-200 nationwide eventually, the health minister said - “megacentre” vaccinodromes within the next month. The aim is for them to be used to vaccinate 1,000-2,000 people per day once up and running.

Vaccine delivery plans

A total of 27.9 million injections are set to be administered in France in April 2021, including first and second doses, from four types of vaccines (see below).

Source: LeFigaro.fr / Santé Publique France / DGS

Yet, this major speeding up of the campaign relies on increased deliveries of the vaccines themselves.

AstraZeneca

AstraZeneca - whose vaccine use was recently restarted after a pause - has already announced delays to its planned deliveries to the EU. 

It is only set to have delivered 4.5 million doses by the end of the first quarter, instead of the 17.5 million planned. The company has now said that it will deliver 2.9 million doses to France in the month of April.

Read more: AstraZeneca announces new vaccine delivery delays to EU

This week, President Macron said that the country is “fighting to get doses” and that “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”. 

Mr Macron added that the EU was also “very motivated on the issue”, and said that the Janssen vaccine, from Johnson & Johnson - which has now been approved by the EU - would also “allow more and more vaccines to arrive”. This vaccine is administered with one dose only.

Pfizer/BioNTech

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is set to be the “pillar” of France’s campaign - and the main vaccine available in the vaccinodromes - making up 7.7 million of the 12 million total doses set to be delivered to France in April.

It is set to almost double its weekly deliveries to France from 1 million currently, to 1.9 million by the end of April.

The industries minister confirmed: “It will clearly be [Pfizer] that will provide the biggest number of doses in the next few weeks.”

Pfizer is also seeking to simplify the logistics of transporting and storing its vaccine. 

It is set to submit an application to the EU for permission to store the vaccine in a normal refrigerator for two weeks, rather than the “super-freezer” conditions of -80C that it has so far been required to use.

French company Recipharm is also set to begin manufacturing of the Pfizer jab in the next few days.

Janssen

Johnson & Johnson - as promised by President Macron - is also set to deliver 55 million doses to Europe in the second quarter.

The Elysée said that the government had “really pushed for them to start delivering in April”, while Sandra Gallina, director general for health at the European Commission, said that the arrival of the one-dose Janssen vaccine “could really give a push to the vaccination campaign”.

Moderna

The Moderna vaccine will also play a role, with a stable number of vaccines set to arrive by April (900,000 doses per month).

Delivery of this vaccine is expected to increase significantly in May and the second quarter, rising to 1.7 million doses per month.

French company Delpharm is also set to begin manufacturing of the Moderna jab in the next few days.

The Curevac jab is also expected to be available in the EU from June, with the German lab confirming that it had begun clinical trials on vaccines to see if they could offer extra protection against the new variants.

Sputnik

The Russian vaccine has been under evaluation by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) since March 4. 

If approved, the manufacturer is set to deliver 50 million doses to Europe. And while Germany has said that it will order directly from the EMA should this happen, France has said that the decision is “premature”, and that negotiations are still underway with the laboratories Novavax and Valneva.

Yet, the question of how to include the Sputnik jab into the campaign plan is “legitimate”, the Élysée said, and may be asked in the “next few months” and into 2022. 

Overall, Secretary of State for European affairs Clément Beaune said: “At this point [if Sputnik is approved], we will have enough of the other vaccines [anyway].”

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