Covid vaccine: France debates jabs for chronic conditions

France is discussing whether to make the vaccine available for people with chronic conditions - as the booking website experiences difficulties

14 January 2021
A vial of Covid vaccine and a syringe. Covid vaccine: France debates jabs for people with chronic conditions as website failsThe vaccination booking website for people aged 75 and over opened today - but is already experiencing difficulties
By Hannah Thompson

France is debating whether to make the Covid-19 vaccine available as early as next week for people with certain chronic conditions - such as those undergoing chemotherapy, or transplant patients.

The vaccine could be made available for patients who risk becoming severely ill if they contract Covid, from as early as Monday January 18, the ministry of health has said.

This would mean vaccinations would open for this group on the same day as for people aged 75 and over (who are not in elderly care homes).

The ministry of health said the idea was “under discussion”. Prime Minister Jean Castex is expected to announce the final decision at the government press conference scheduled for 18:00 today.

It comes after Professor Alain Fischer, immunologist and the government’s head of the vaccination rollout, told the Assemblée nationale that vaccination should be opened for “people with conditions; those that the medical establishment considers to be ‘ultra high priority’”.

This would include “patients undergoing chemotherapy for cancer, patients with insufficient kidney operation, transplant patients, and those with all kinds of rare conditions that could expose them to severe forms of Covid, such as, for example, Down's Syndrome”.

He said: “This would equate to hundreds of thousands of people who we think should receive the vaccine from next Monday.”

Health Minister Olivier Véran appeared to confirm the idea in the Assemblée nationale, but did not confirm any dates or definite rollout plans.

He said: “We are going to open vaccination to people in France who are aged under 75, who suffer from illnesses that expose them to a risk of severe forms [of Covid].

“Professor Fischer will aim to compile this list of patients...using scientific health indicators. That is not for the health minister, myself, to decide.”

Monday vaccination rollout

From Monday, people aged 75 and over - who are not care home residents - will be added to the list of people who are eligible for a Covid vaccination.

Read more: Vaccinations to begin for over 75s in France: How-to guide
Read more: France's Covid vaccination rollout explained

These people will be the latest group in the government’s rollout, which has already included care home residents, and healthcare workers aged 50 and over.

People who do not fit into the eligible categories yet, but who wish to receive a vaccine will also soon be able to sign up to be notified about any potential “leftover” doses at the end of the day, and book an appointment to receive one, to avoid waste.

Read more: Covid jab: ‘Two doses per vial wasted’ claims French doctor

 

Website down

People who are eligible for a vaccine have been invited to go to the sante.fr website to book an appointment at a time and place that suits them, and online booking opened today (January 14).

Read more: Online vaccine reservations open this week

But the website is currently experiencing connection issues.

It appears to have become overwhelmed with requests, and has been displaying various warning messages, such as “this site can’t be reached”, “the site may operate slowly” and “vaccinations are only available for people aged 75 and over”, and “an error occurred”.

Currently, the website reads: “This service is undergoing maintenance. The exact time of the opening of the online appointment service for vaccinations will be communicated shortly.”

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