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France speeds up Covid vaccines: Where is it globally now?

A record 500,000 people received a first dose this weekend - we look at how France’s vaccination campaign measures up against the rest of the world

8 March 2021
A woman is about to be vaccinated. France speeds up Covid vaccines: Where is it globally now?A record 500,000 people received a first dose of a Covid vaccine in France over the past three days
By Hannah Thompson

Updated on March 9, 2021 to reflect change in source data.

France’s Covid vaccination campaign has speeded up considerably, with more than half a million people having received a dose in the past three days. We look at how the rollout compares worldwide. 

After having been criticised repeatedly for the “slow” speed of its vaccination rollout, France administered a record number of Covid vaccinations over the weekend, including almost 240,000 on Friday - a rise of 37% compared to the previous Friday.

More than 200,000 injections were administered on Saturday - three times more than the previous Saturday - and there were 100,000 given on Sunday.

This means that as of today, 3,772,579 people in France have received their first dose. A total of 1,920,395 second doses have been administered.

It takes two doses for the vaccination to be fully effective, and for the person to be officially “vaccinated”.

Prime Minister Jean Castex said “a new step in the battle had been reached” and thanked all healthcare workers, emergency services and ministers for their help.

How does France compare?

Figures published by newspaper Le Figaro (live table updated regularly) show that 5.56% of the French population has now received a vaccination, putting France on a par with the Netherlands (5.86%), Belgium (5.3%), Germany (5.87%) and Italy (6.23%).

Yet, it is significantly behind many other nations. The Seychelles have administered the greatest number of first doses, at 58.06% of the population. Israel has administered at least one dose to 57.31% of the population, the UK 32.72%.

Yet, France’s vaccination campaign is still ahead of some major nations, including Japan (0.04%), New Zealand (0.20%) and Australia (0.30%).

Different approaches

Varying approaches to the vaccination campaign have caused a wide difference in figures.

For example, France has administered a high proportion of second doses compared to many countries - including the UK - which show more first doses, but proportionally fewer second jabs.

The UK has given far more first jabs than France, with the latest figures showing this at 22,213,112. But it has only given 1,122,402 second jabs - fewer than France.

Similarly, in contrast to some nations, France began its rollout in elderly care homes. This caused the campaign to begin slowly, as the vaccine had to be taken to them, and each person was asked individually to sign a consent form. 

In the case of some residents who were unable to give consent due to health conditions such as dementia, this meant that their families had to give consent, which took longer.

France ramps up rollout

Many of the vaccines given over the past three days - Friday, Saturday and Sunday - were of the AstraZeneca jab, which were reintroduced into general use after not being used by healthcare workers.

Read more: 250,000 Covid jabs in France in one day as rollout steps up

GPs have also begun to order the vaccinations in higher numbers. In the first week that doctors were permitted to order and administer the jab, only 19,000 took up the offer. 

In the second week (last week), more than 38,000 did so.

GP Dr Michaël Rochoy, from Boulogne-sur-Mer, told newspaper Le Figaro: “Doctors have responded, we saw that at the weekend. If these doses had been given to GPs and pharmacists three weeks ago, we would not have needed such a ‘catch up’ campaign.”

Pharmacists are set to begin administering doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from March 15.

France is expected to receive delivery of 800,000 doses of the AstraZeneca jab this week, with the delivery amounts rising to one million per week until the end of March.

Between 750,000-800,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine are expected each week in March, alongside 930,000 total doses of the Moderna jab spread across two deliveries in the month.

So far, the number of vaccination centres that are already open should be able to absorb these extra doses, and deliver the correct number of jabs to ensure that no doses go to waste.

However, deliveries are set to step up even further in April, which may cause a backlog.

A total of 7.7 million doses of Pfizer, 1.7 million Moderna, 3.1 million AstraZeneca and 2.7 million Janssen jabs (the Johnson & Johnson vaccine currently going through the approval process) are set to be delivered next month.

France will need to administer 500,000 doses per day on average, to keep up with supply.

It comes as an open letter published in newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche (JDD) yesterday called on all healthcare workers to be vaccinated as their “ethical duty”. It was revealed that just one in three healthcare workers has so far taken up the offer of a jab.

It is suggested that this may be because of reports of the side effects in nurses after having received the AstraZeneca jab, and some areas suspending its use as a result.

Read more: France calls health staff to get Covid jab as ‘ethical duty’

But in the letter, the health authorities wrote: “[The AstraZeneca jab] is safe, and its effectiveness has been widely shown in studies in the UK and Israel, where it has been widely administered.”

Over the weekend, Health Minister Olivier Véran said that he was confident that healthcare professionals would increase their take-up of the vaccine, and said that he was not considering making vaccination mandatory by law for these workers, for the moment.

Prime Minister Jean Castex has said that France is aiming to vaccinate 30 million people with at least one dose, by the summer.

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