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Covid-19 ‘vaccinodromes’ open in France’s worst-hit areas

Large public spaces and centres are opening as part of the country’s plans to speed up the vaccination rollout, after more than 500,000 people received a jab over the weekend

“Vaccinodromes” - large sports halls or public spaces transformed into Covid-19 vaccination centres - are opening all over France, in the areas worst-affected by the pandemic.

Such centres were not initially planned as part of the Covid-19 vaccination rollout - which began in France on December 3, 2020 - in contrast to those used in 2009 during the H1N1 flu epidemic. 

But now, the government is aiming to speed up the vaccination rollout, with a view to giving everyone eligible - who wants to - at least one dose of the vaccine by the summer.

Vaccination centres opened in Ile-de-France, where more than 100 centres opened, giving out more than 50,000 doses, and Pas-de-Calais, which gave out more than 10,000 doses. Centres have also opened at the Parc des expositions in Nice, and Stade Ernest-Wallon in Toulouse.

The biggest centres began the weekend by aiming to vaccinate 2,000 people over the two days.

More than 135,000 doses of the vaccines have so far been diverted to the 20 worst-affected departments.

Sylvain Robert, mayor of Lens, Pas-de-Calais, told newspaper La Dépêche: “The population is showing up; it’s going well.”

Prime Minister Jean Castex and Health Minister Olivier Véran welcomed a record weekend for vaccinations, with more than 500,000 people receiving a dose in the past three days (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday).

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

Some have said that this speeded-up vaccination strategy must continue. 

Olivier Gacquerre, mayor of Béthune, Pas-de-Calais, which has opened a vaccinodrome, told local news source France Bleu Nord that it is necessary to roll out such measures “en masse” from now on.

More “XXL” vaccination centres are also set to open across France in the next few days and weeks; including in Marseille, which has announced that Stade Vélodrome will be transformed into a centre.

But as more centres open, the logistics of transporting and storing the necessary number of vaccines - as well as ensuring that enough patients have access to book enough appointments to receive them - will become even more critical.

The government is aiming for a total of 32million vaccines to be delivered by the end of April, which should be enough to supply the vaccinodromes, if enough people register to receive a jab, and enough appointments are made available.

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