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French Covid surge: Will the fourth vaccine dose be offered to all?

Cases have risen by 56% in the past week. We ask whether extending the additional booster to the whole population would help curb the increase

We ask whether France could roll out the fourth vaccine dose to the whole population in the face of a surge in Covid cases Pic: Prostock-studio / Shutterstock

A new Covid wave has begun in France with case numbers rising by 56% over the last week, raising questions over the potential for a wider rollout of the fourth vaccine – or second booster – dose.

Read more: ‘New Covid wave’ in France, says leading professor

Read more: French Covid surge: Recap of rules if you’re positive or close contact

On Friday (June 24) – when the official data was last updated – some 79,262 new infections were recorded in France, and the positivity rates for tests taken was 27.1%, up 20% compared to a week before. 

Covid hospitalisations have also begun to rise in France, increasing 25% over the past week, with admissions to intensive care also up 11%. 

This surge in cases can largely be attributed to the emergence of the BA4 and BA5 subvariants of Omicron, which are more easily transmissible.

Read more: First cases of Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 detected in France

In response to this seventh Covid wave, it is possible that health authorities might think about extending the offer of a fourth vaccine dose to everyone. 

This second booster campaign was already opened to over-60s, immunosuppressed patients and care home residents in March, but only 2.18 million of the 8.7 million people eligible have so far taken up this extra dose. 

France’s health ministry said during a press conference last week that this coverage is “clearly insufficient”. 

Read more: Covid France: Plea for older people to get fourth dose as cases soar

However, Élisabeth Bouvet of health service quality regulator Haute autorité de santé (HAS), has said that “recommending a second booster for the whole population will not fundamentally change the course of the epidemic”.

Infection specialist Benjamin Davido has also warned that trying to give boosters to the whole population which is eligible to be vaccinated would “create a bottleneck”. 

“Today we need to think strategically,” he said. “The challenge is to avoid hospitalisations. People who are most at risk of being admitted to hospital are the elderly and most vulnerable, [including] those with serious health conditions. They are the priority and should continue to be.” 

Virologist Étienne Decroly added: “The fourth dose creates the issue of adapting the vaccine to the circulating variants. At the moment, the vaccines which we have at our disposal are not adapted to fight against Omicron.

“In addition, the surge which we are seeing now is very quick, and does not allow for the implementation of an effective vaccination strategy.” 

Moderna has said that it should have an Omicron-adapted vaccine ready “by September,” while the European Medicines Agency has announced that Pfizer is also working on a modified version of its vaccine. 

Related articles 

Leading epidemiologist warns of new Covid wave in France this summer

Coronavirus: Daily updates on the situation in France

France to review prolonging Covid pass for international travellers

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