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How France plans to speed up Covid vaccination rollout

The aim is for 30 million first injections by the beginning of summer. We look at how the government hopes to achieve this

5 March 2021

The French government is targeting greater deliveries of Covid-19 vaccine doses, opening more vaccination centres and launching more weekend vaccination appointments Pic: Marco Verch Professional Photographer / Flickr

By Connexion journalist

France is planning to rapidly accelerate the rollout of Covid-19 vaccinations in the coming weeks, Health Minister Olivier Véran stated during a press conference yesterday (March 4)

“Faced with the epidemic situation and in a context of an increase in the number of available doses, this general mobilisation is set to intensify in the coming weeks,” he said.

Prime Minister Jean Castex revealed at the same press conference that the government is aiming to give a first dose of a vaccination to over 30million people by the beginning of the summer.

He is aiming for 10million first vaccinations by mid-April and 20million by mid-May.

The latest figures show that just over three million people have received a first vaccine dose. We look at how the government hopes to speed up the rollout. 

Opening up the vaccines to new age groups

Everyone aged 50 to 74, regardless of their health, will be able to get vaccinated from mid-April, Mr Castex stated.

This follows from an announcement earlier this week when the government opened up the rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine to people aged between 65 to 74 with existing health issues. This means that everyone aged 50 to 74 with existing health problems is now eligible to receive this vaccine type. 

This is in addition to the two other vaccine types, those of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, being available for everyone, regardless of health issues, aged over 75. 

Also everyone regardless of their age but with a limited number of very serious health issues is eligible to be vaccinated. Read more about that here

You can find a full list of who is eligible to be vaccinated in France here (in French).

Three times more doses in March

Dr Jean-Paul Hamon, honorary president of doctor’s union la Fédération des médecins de France, told The Connexion on Wednesday that there were simply not enough doses for GPs at the moment. He said he was not sure if he would be able to vaccinate all his patients with appointments this week due to a lack of vaccines.

Mr Castex stated yesterday that more doses are coming.

“Deliveries of doses to France will increase in the coming weeks,” he said.

“Between January and February, we received seven million doses of all vaccines. In March, we should receive 22 million doses, three times as many."

"We can't vaccinate everyone right away. You will still have to be patient but don't have any doubt - you will be vaccinated,” he said.

He stated that 850,000 new Covid vaccination appointments will be made available between now and the end of March. 

No more weekends for the vaccines

There have, up to now, been few vaccination appointments on Saturdays and Sundays in France. The government wants to change that.

“Mayors, healthcare workers, hospitals - everyone must be on hand, including on weekends, to vaccinate as quickly as possible,” Mr Castex said.

“We have entered a race against time with the epidemic and we need everyone to pull together,” he said. 

Mr Véran, the health minister, demanded “the opening of as many vaccination centres as possible and the creation of additional temporary centres wherever deemed useful during the weekend".

Pharmacists to enter the campaign

From March 15, pharmacists will be able to administer the AstraZeneca vaccine on site.

There will be no need for a prescription. The first priority people for this will be those aged 50 and above who have existing health conditions which put them at risk of developing a serious form of Covid. 

From mid-April people without such conditions will be able to get vaccinated too in pharmacies.

A decree authorising this measure will be published today and there will be more details available from next week. 

Mr Castex stressed the efficacy of the AstraZeneca vaccine, saying “the original reservations are no longer valid”.

More vaccines to more affected areas

There are now 23 departments being monitored with a view to introducing new Covid-related measures if necessary. These departments have been made priority to receive more doses.

In Nice (Alpes-Maritimes) where a weekend lockdown is currently in place, 12,000 more vaccine doses will be made available this weekend. This will increase the number of people being vaccinated from 34,000 to 46,000. 

In Île-de-France, a ticketing system at the entrance of vaccination centres could be set up in order for people to get appointments on site this weekend.

Meanwhile, 5,000 extra vaccination appointments are scheduled to take place in Seine-Saint-Denis this weekend, including Sunday when the centres are usually closed, MP for the department Jean-Christophe Lagarde said. 

Regional health agencies are expected to unveil plans for the organisation of these accelerated procedures later today. 

A call to arms for healthcare workers

There must be more needles in the arms of healthcare workers, Mr Véran said yesterday.

“When you are a healthcare worker, it's your responsibility to protect yourself and avoid exposing those you care for,” he said.

He said that he will write a letter to all health professionals to encourage them, from today, to get vaccinated. 

There has been a debate about whether the Covid-19 vaccination should be made mandatory for healthcare workers. Mr Véran said the matter could be referred to the national ethics committee, the Comité Consultatif National d'Éthique.

Mr Castex also criticised the poor uptake in vaccinations among healthcare workers in France.

“Only one out of three healthcare workers is now vaccinated,” he said. 

“This is not normal. It compromises our ability to fight the virus effectively."

Read more:

Weekend lockdown for Pas-de-Calais, more areas on alert

France looks at ways to speed up Covid-19 vaccine campaign

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