France begins Covid-19 vaccination programme

The first vaccinations on the elderly have taken place in Sevran and Dijon, as well as two healthcare workers, in a bid to boost trust in the jab

28 December 2020
By Hannah Thompson

The first vaccinations against Covid-19 have taken place in France, with one million elderly people set to receive it by February - as doctors seek to increase trust in the vaccine among the public.

The first person to receive the vaccine yesterday (December 27) was 78-year-old Mauricette. She was injected at the René-Muret hospital in Sevran, Seine-Saint-Denis; and observed by doctors afterwards to ensure that she was reacting well to the treatment.

After her vaccination, Mauricette said: “I am very touched.” Nine other people also received the jab.

At the same hospital, cardiologist Jean-Jacques Monsuez was also vaccinated, to help show that it is safe, and to increase trust in the vaccine. He is aged over 65.

More vaccinations also took place at the Champmaillot elderly care centre in Dijon, Côte-d’Or, which has been one of the regions most-affected regions by Covid-19.

Before each vaccination in France, the healthcare worker will ask the patient again, if they give consent to be vaccinated. This is not required, but it is being encouraged.

One elderly man, who was vaccinated at Champmaillot, said that he had consented to be vaccinated because “we cannot continue to live like this, in fear of the illness”.

 

‘The end of this epidemic’

Also vaccinated in Dijon was Professor Pierre Jouanny, specialist in geriatic care at the city’s CHU hospital.

He received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine because he is - as an older healthcare worker - in an at-risk category, and also to “show that we must absolutely trust this vaccine. All the elements are here to show us that we can finally take action to end this epidemic”.

Of the vaccination itself, he told news service FranceInfo: “I barely felt anything. [But there was] a certain emotion involved due to the cameras, and a lot of people watching.”

He added: “It’s just the same as [the vaccine] for ‘flu, which I get every year, like all elderly care professionals.”

At the time, Professor Jouanny had not experienced any side-effects, but he admitted that it was possible, although they were unlikely to be serious.

He said: “As soon as we stimulate our immune system to produce antibodies that will protect us against illness, we risk having a bit of fever, some muscle pain, as all vaccines can do.

“This one seems to produce a little more, but we can take a few paracetamol tablets and things go back to normal within 24-48 hours.”

He said that while he would “now go to see my 90-year-old mother with less fear”, he still advised people to be cautious immediately after having the vaccine, as there could still be traces of the virus in coughs and sneezes even if it is not “circulating inside the body” any more.

Similarly, the Covid-19 vaccine requires two injections to become effective - an initial one, followed by another around a month later.

Today, 23 more establishments are set to start vaccinations, as France aims to vaccinate one million people by February.

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