At least 35 “mega” vaccination centres are to open within the next few days in France, in a bid to administer the increased numbers of vaccines set for delivery in April and beyond.
Health Minister Olivier Véran confirmed that the army and firefighters would be helping to open and coordinate the centres, which are aiming to vaccinate several thousand people per day each over the next few months.
He said: “The health service and the army will work to develop a certain number of giant vaccination centres - we might call them ‘vaccinodromes’ or ‘megacentres’, whatever name you want to use.”
Mr Véran stated his goal of having “10 million people vaccinated with at least one dose by mid-April”, with the campaign rollout set to speed up next month “because supplies of the vaccine will rise”.
The centres will also be supported by l’Assurance maladie. They will work in addition to existing vaccination centres in hospitals, pharmacies, and GP surgeries.
Junior economy minister Agnès Pannier-Runacher told news service BFMTV this morning: “We are working with local officials to put [the centres] in place. The challenge is that we are expecting a rise in the delivery of doses, and we can now move to the second phase of vaccination, which is much bigger.
“We have finished with the vaccination phase in elderly care homes, which was a bit more complex. This phase is behind us, and we can now expand vaccination [further].”
The Stade de France in Paris will be one of the major new centres, and is set to open at the beginning of April, the Saint-Denis department president and town mayor confirmed.
Army and emergency services involved
Until now, the government had sought to avoid referring to “vaccinodromes”, or major vaccination centres, as they had been associated with the failed rollout of H1N1 flu vaccinations in 2009.
But now, as the Covid-19 epidemic continues, France has changed its approach.
Already, France has opened 15-20 “temporary” vaccination centres, but the government has said that these will continue to operate on a more “permanent” level.
Commandant Alexandre Jouassard, Sécurité civile spokesman, told BFMTV: “Until now, vaccinodromes were open for maybe two, three days. Now, we want to have vaccinodromes that last, with the capacity to adapt.”
He said: “[The objective is now] to increase our capacity to vaccinate, but to do it in consultation with prefects and hospital centres.
“Health services and emergency services will be authorised to give vaccinations, as will doctors and nurses. Since last week, sapeurs-pompiers [fire and rescue] can also vaccinate, but only once they have been trained, and under the supervision of a nurse or doctor on-site.”
The army will also be involved in setting up and opening at least eight centres out of the 30-35 announced, including at army centre hospitals. A full list of participating army hospitals can be found here.
General François Lecointre, Chief of Staff of the Army, said: “We are involved and we will continue to be anywhere that there are fewer staff and fewer resources.”
How can I book an appointment at a new centre?
You must be eligible for vaccination under the current rollout timetable, and can book an appointment via the current online channels, including Doctolib, Santé.fr or Maia.
Commandant Jouassard also said: “There will no doubt be other apps [made available]. That is still under construction.”
From Saturday (March 27) president Emmanuel Macron announced that the Covid jab will be open to all over 70s