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Fourth Covid vaccine dose now available in France for the over-80s

It comes as rules on the vaccine pass and mandatory mask-wearing are lifted. Case numbers are rising slightly

An older woman receives a Covid vaccine from a nurse

Older people aged 80 and over are now invited to book their fourth Covid vaccination dose and to remain cautious, especially if they are vulnerable Pic: David Pereiras / Shutterstock

A fourth Covid vaccine dose is now available to book for people aged 80 or over in France. It comes as most restrictions are lifted (today, Monday, March 14) throughout the country.

Read more: End of France’s vaccine pass: What changes for tourists and residents?

Prime Minister Jean Castex confirmed that the fourth dose was now open and said the government was not “changing strategy” in its approach against the virus.

He told Le Parisien that the fourth dose would open “to those over 80 who received their booster dose more than three months ago”.

Mr Castex added that he would also recommend that “vulnerable people, whether due to their age or conditions, should continue to wear a mask in enclosed spaces and large gatherings”.

The minister acknowledged that the country had seen a rise in cases in recent weeks and days, but said that the government was not “changing strategy”, even as most restrictions lift today.

Read more: Recap: Mask wearing, vaccine pass… new rules for France from March 14

Mr Castex said: “I have consulted the [government scientific advisory body] le Conseil scientifique, and they are telling us that the subvariant BA2 [variant of Omicron] is at the root of this rebound. It is more contagious than the initial [strain of] Omicron, but it does not appear to be more dangerous.”

Mr Castex said that “hospital pressure”, which “remains our gauge [of the situation] is continuing to drop. Improvements in hospital and our high vaccine coverage are leading us to lift [restrictive] measures”.

From today, the use of the vaccine pass and masks is no longer mandatory except in health establishments. Masks must also continue to be worn on public transport.

Current situation and effects of rule relaxation

The latest figures show (March 13) that there were 60,422 new cases in the previous 24 hours, a 22.6% positivity rate of tests, and an average of 52,715 new daily cases over the past week to Tuesday March 8 (an increase of 7.5% on the previous week).

Yet, the R number (which, if above 1, shows that the virus is actively spreading), was still at 0.8, and hospitalisations and transfers to intensive care are not yet rising in proportion with new cases.

A full 100% of the positive tests sequenced showed the Omicron variant.

The Institut Pasteur has modelled the effects of dropping the vaccine pass in France, ranging from the best-case scenario at 50,000 new cases per day, and the worst case of 150,000 (compared to the peak of 350,000 cases reported in January and February this year).

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