A brother and sister have died after being infected with the Delta variant of Covid-19 in France.
The man, 43, and the woman, 60, lived in Gers, Occitanie.
Neither was vaccinated against the virus despite both having health conditions that made them vulnerable to serious illness if they contracted Covid-19, the regional health agency (ARS) in Occitanie reported.
The ARS said that an action plan was being implemented immediately in the region to “avoid a rebound of the epidemic”.
Landes, a department next to Gers, has had the highest number of cases of the Delta variant in France.
It currently has the highest incidence rate in mainland France, with 54 people testing positive for Covid-19 out of 100,000 inhabitants in the past seven days (figure from June 27).
Partially vaccinated young people vulnerable to variant
The Delta variant currently accounts for 9-10% of Covid cases in France and is highly contagious.
It is thought to be 60% more contagious than the Alpha (formerly UK) strain, which is itself 60% more contagious than the original strain.
Professor Jean-François Timsit, head of infectious diseases at the Bichat hospital in Paris, told FranceInfo it was “certain” that cases of the variant would continue to rise in France, especially while many people are not fully vaccinated.
He said: “Everything we know shows that one dose of the vaccine only gives 33% protection against the Delta variant.
“It is only with two doses of an RNA messenger vaccine [such as Pfizer or Moderna] that protection reaches 85-90%.”
A study from Public Health England has also found that the AstraZeneca vaccine gives more than 90% protection against hospitalisation from the Delta variant after two doses.
Expert calls for ‘collective’ attitude towards vaccination
In Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, the ARS has reported that the majority of cases of the variant are being identified among young people who are only partially vaccinated.
Professor Timsit said this could lead to a rebound of the epidemic: “Young people are the least vaccinated and the ones who make the most of the country reopening.
“They may not become very sick themselves, but they will be the reason the virus spreads among the wider population.”
He said this spread could cause a fourth wave of the epidemic in September.
But the professor also praised young people in France for being “very motivated” to get vaccinated, and urged older generations to take the same approach in order to protect themselves and others.
He said, in the current climate “it is proof of incivility towards other people to not get vaccinated.
“We cannot accept that 30-40% of the population say they are against vaccination. If we want to be able to live again, there is no other solution. And this solution is collective.”