A fourth dose of Covid vaccine for the whole French population should not be ruled out although the current level of immunity is “protecting the population”, a leading expert has said.
Professor Bruno Mégarbane is an infectious diseases specialist and head of medical and toxicology intensive care at the Lariboisière Hospital Paris and was speaking to FranceInfo on April 24.
He said: “We are not ruling out that come la rentrée [to school and work in September], we may have to do a fourth dose for the entire population, but we will see when we come to it, depending on the variants that are circulating [then].
“But, at the moment, there is no variant that is clearly ahead in terms of spreading and virulence.”
Prof Mégarbane explained that the current level of public immunity was high, and was offering a protective effect.
He said: “All the new variants and sub-variants are very similar to the generations before, and that means that the immunity that we have acquired and are maintaining thanks to re-infections enables us to protect the population against serious forms of the illness.
“This is the infamous ‘herd immunity’, immunity that protects against the severe forms of the illness but not, unfortunately, against infections.”
The professor said that he believes that vaccination, along with infection and reinfection “make it possible to live with the virus” and that Covid will eventually “very gradually move towards being [on the same level] as a cold”.
Who can currently get a fourth dose of vaccine in France?
France has so far opened fourth doses to the over-60s, immunosuppressed patients and care home residents.
Read more: France Covid: fourth vaccine dose now being offered to over-60s
This is considered the fourth dose because it comes after the two initial doses, plus the booster (third dose).
It can only be given if three months have elapsed between your last dose (booster), or at least two months after the end of symptoms, if you are eligible for the dose but caught Covid within the past two months.
It is voluntary.
Does everyone really need a fourth dose?
France has previously hesitated over the introduction of a fourth dose, especially on the question of whether to offer it to the entire population.
Read more: Why France is hesitating over fourth Covid vaccine dose
In January, the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned earlier this month that: “A vaccination strategy based on repeated booster doses of the original vaccine composition is unlikely to be appropriate or sustainable” and this view has been seconded by the European Medicines Agency.
At the time, Health Minister Olivier Véran responded: “If…we see that it is not necessary, we will not do it. The scientists will have to tell us.”
Jean-François Delfraissy, the president of the Conseil scientifique, the official medical body set up by France to advise on Covid developments, also said: “The Covid vaccine is great at preventing serious illness, but its usefulness becomes limited over time.
“We need solid scientific data to be able to say” whether or not another dose should be rolled out,” he said.
The government has requested advice from health service quality regulator, the Haute Autorité de santé (HAS) but it has not yet published its recommendations.
Also in January, Elisabeth Bouvet, the HAS president of vaccination procedure, has said that she is “not at all sure that we will need a fourth dose” at some point in the future.
“We do not have any data, at the moment, which would enable us to justify this measure.”
The latest figures in France (April 25) show that there were 13,984 new cases in the past 24 hours, and 197 new deaths. Cases are down 29.4% compared to the previous seven days.
A total of 36,285,559 people have received three doses of the vaccine so far.
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