France prepares as EU says Covid vaccine ready within a week

France’s prime minister will put his vaccination strategy before parliament today as EU health authorities set date of December 21 to discuss vaccine approval

16 December 2020
By Connexion journalist

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen has said that the EU’s 27 member states will aim to start Covid-19 vaccinations on the same day and that they will be able to begin the roll-out before the end of the year.

“Finally, within a week, the first vaccine will be authorised so that vaccinations can start immediately, and more will follow in the new year," she told MEPs Wednesday, December 16.

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) is set to meet on December 21 to decide whether to give approval to the BioNTech-Pfizer Covid-19 vaccination, eight days sooner than originally planned.

The vaccination is already being rolled out in the UK, the US and Canada. 

The agency had scheduled a first meeting to discuss approval for December 29 but is to meet sooner after it received additional data from drug companies. The December 29 date will be maintained if needed, the EMA wrote in a press release.

If approval is granted, European countries will be able to begin vaccination programmes within days.

Some EU leaders, such as Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, have been critical of the EU’s slow approach to approving the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccination. 

France’s President Emmanuel Macron is said to be in favour of all EU countries launching their vaccination campaigns on the same day. It remains to be seen if all member states will be in a position to do that before the end of this year. 

The announcement comes as France’s Prime Minister Jean Castex heads to parliament this afternoon (December 16) to present his national vaccination strategy to the Assemblée Nationale. He will present it again on Thursday to the senate. 

France’s health minister Olivier Véran outlined this three-step vaccination strategy in a speech on December 3

He said doses will initially be given to elderly people in retirement homes and the staff there, followed by around 14 million people considered “at risk”. It will then be rolled out to the rest of the population in Spring. 

Government spokesperson Gabriel Attal said today that the target is to vaccinate 15 million people in France before the summer.

Jean-François Delfraissy, president of the Conseil Scientifique, which is advising the government on Covid-19 matters, has tempered expectations that the vaccine will be a quick-fix solution to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

He said it will take until the end of April or May to immunise the 22 million people in France who are most at risk.

“The arrival of the vaccines will have no impact on the first trimestre of 2021 and very little on the second,” he told newspaper Le Parisien. 

Vaccines to be done under supervision

The Haute Autorité de Santé (HAS) has advised that the Covid-19 vaccination is at first administered under the supervision of doctors.

“In the initial phases of the campaign, the HAS recommends that the vaccination be carried out as much as possible under the supervision of a doctor, with the support of nurses working in retirement homes,” the authority wrote in a press release published Tuesday (December 15). 

The HAS stated that once the number of doses and types of vaccines increase, the duty of administering the vaccine could be extended to “all nurses and pharmacists”.

Read more:

France's PM says free Covid vaccine ready within weeks

France to closely monitor side-effects of Covid-19 vaccine

Covid: Can the French be convinced to get vaccinated?

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