France extends list of who qualifies for Covid booster jab
People who care for or assist at-risk and vulnerable people will be offered a third jab first, say health authorities. Will a booster injection eventually be offered to everyone?
Booster jabs will now be offered to those who care for vulnerable people, the French health authority has said Pic: Wachiwit / Shutterstock
France is to offer a Covid-19 booster vaccination to a wider group of people. It comes after the European Medicines Agency approved boosters for all adults - but this is not expected to happen in France yet.
Who is currently being offered a booster jab in France?
People who are most at risk of suffering a severe form of Covid are already being offered a third jab, including the elderly, and those with underlying conditions or who are immunosuppressed.
Now, their carers will also be offered a third, booster vaccination, health authority la Haute autorité de Santé (HAS) confirmed yesterday (October 6).
Two days earlier, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) said that given recent scientific data, a third vaccination of the Pfizer jab could be useful for all adults aged 18 and over.
In response, the HAS suggested that the government could open a third jab to the public in stages.
The most at risk have already been able to get a booster since September. Now, it will be offered to “all professionals who take care of, or who assist, vulnerable people, as well as those in the immediate circle of immunosuppressed people.”
The HAS said that it would offer carers a third dose first because “we are still seeing a significant number of infections in establishments” such as care homes.
Professionals in the healthcare, health transport, and medical-social care sectors will be first in line. This is equivalent to 3.5 million people.
Why is a third jab needed?
The HAS said that several studies suggest that there is a drop in the effectiveness of the vaccine after six months, especially for those at risk of severe forms of the illness.
It is still unclear whether this drop in effectiveness is due to the Delta variant - which is now dominant in France - or whether the vaccines would drop in coverage in any case.
Booster doses are considered to increase the effectiveness, almost like a ‘renewal’ of coverage. The HAS cited recent public data published by Pfizer, which said that a booster dose reduces the risk of infection by 10.
For at-risk people, the risk of infection drops by 20 in those who have had three doses of the jab, compared to those who have had only two.
Will a third jab eventually be given to everyone?
The HAS has so far stopped short of confirming that it would eventually offer a third dose to all adults, despite the EMA’s recommendations for all over-18s.
In a statement, it said: “It is necessary to strengthen vaccinal protection among populations that are most exposed to the virus, and who are most at risk of spreading it to people in their immediate contact, especially if those are at risk of getting a severe form of Covid, or of dying.”
The extent to which the vaccinations’ effectiveness drops among young people is not yet clear, it added.
And, as the health situation has gradually improved over the past few weeks, it has so far concluded that “at this stage, the recommendation of administering an extra dose to the general population” is not justified.
However, it did say that “a booster dose will probably become necessary in the coming months”.