Mauricette M., 78, became the first person in France to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccination on Sunday, December 27, but since then only 118 others have followed, according to French data gathering site CovidTracker.
In Germany, meanwhile, 41,962 people have received their first dose of the vaccination, the latest figures from the Robert Koch Institut show and in the UK, over 800,000 people have been vaccinated.
The UK began its roll-out on December 8, giving it an almost three-week head start.
Germany, however, began its vaccination campaign just one day before France and both countries are more-or-less equally equipped in terms of logistics and distribution processes.
So, why such a big gap in the number of people vaccinated?
Dr Alain Fischer, the coordinator of France’s vaccination campaign, said, “it’s good that we’re not going any faster”.
France’s progressive strategy “gives time to do things right in terms of safety, efficiency, organisation and ethics, with regards to consent”, he said in an interview with radio network Europe 1.
France is the only European country where written consent is required before receiving the vaccination. This can lead to delays in some cases where an elderly or ill person is not able to give their consent and a family member has to be contacted.
Dr Fischer said this was the good way to do it, accepting that some people have said that developing a vaccine in one year is too fast and others have said the vaccination campaign is too slow.
“There are unsatisfied people on both sides,” he said.
Dr Fischer said the reason the UK has been able to vaccinate more people quickly is that it has given priority to healthcare workers, whereas France is prioritising the elderly and vulnerable. He said that there is neither a “good or bad choice” in this instance.
France’s vaccine scepticism
A survey commissioned by BFMTV found that 49% of people polled said they would refuse to get the Covid-19 vaccination in France. The survey, published on December 17, asked 1,005 people aged over 18.
France is also one of the countries most against the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccination, a survey carried out by research firm BVA and published by the JDD on December 26 shows.
It found that only 13% of those polled said they would “definitely get the vaccination”.
This scepticism plays a part in France’s slow vaccination roll-out.
“It is not in our interest to turn the population against a vaccine that is considered essential," Dr Fischer said.
Health Minister Olivier Véran echoed these thoughts.
“I will not mix up doing things quickly and rushing things,” he said in an interview with France 2 yesterday, December 29.
"We know about this gap with other countries. By the end of January, we will have caught up with them.
“We will take our time to educate and to explain.”