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Covid France: Experts debate vaccination of 12-17 year olds

Vaccinations of 16-17-year-olds could start at the beginning of summer, the head of the government’s vaccine strategy has said. He is in favour of 12-15-year-olds also getting a jab

A boy preparing to be vaccinated. Covid France: Experts debate when teenagers should be vaccinated

Professor Alain Fischer, president of the government’s vaccination strategy, has said that 16-17-year-olds will be first on the list when teen jabs begin Pic: Africa Studio / Shutterstock

Covid vaccinations for teenagers are on the agenda in France with the national health authority la Haute Autorité de santé (HAS) set to make a statement on the subject this week.

Professor Alain Fischer, president of the government’s vaccination strategy, has said that 16-17-year-olds will be first on the list once adolescents receive authorisation for the jabs.

He told LCI: “We have all the possible authorisations, including for the Pfizer vaccine, so I think [discussing the issue of vaccinating teenagers] we will have a decision in a matter of days.”

He estimated that the vaccination campaign for teenagers could start “right at the beginning of summer”.

Prime Minister Jean Castex and Health Minister Olivier Véran have also said that the government will address the issue after a cabinet meeting on Wednesday morning (June 2).

The prime minister said: “This must not divert us from our [current] objective of finding all the people who are still vulnerable to the virus”, such as older people or those suffering from underlying conditions.

He said: “That is indispensable [and] that has always been the vaccination strategy in France: first the most vulnerable, and then everyone.”

Currently, the only minors permitted to be vaccinated against Covid-19 in France are 16-18-year-olds with certain serious illnesses (around 10,000-20,000 people, authorities say), or relatives of immuno-suppressed people.

 

Young ‘still affected by Covid’

But Professor Fischer has said that young people have still been affected by Covid, even if they are not the most vulnerable to illness.

He said: “Some teenagers have really suffered due to this lockdown situation, in terms of making their studying or apprenticeships difficult. Especially those who are in difficult social conditions.

“We must come out of this [situation], and one of the major ways to do that is through vaccination. [Teenagers] will therefore help participate in achieving herd immunity.”

The professor said he was in favour of vaccination for 12-15 year-olds. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) approved this on Friday May 28.

Read more: EU authorises first Covid vaccine for children aged 12 - 15

Professor Fischer said: “The question is ‘when?’. And it’s also a practical question of availability of doses and the organisation in summer and when schools go back. We might be able to have health professionals intervening in schools.”

Summer vaccination plans

At tomorrow’s meeting, the government is also set to discuss “the organisation of the vaccination campaign over the summer”, the prime minister said.

He said ministers would also discuss the science of “people who have had the virus, and who have developed antibodies...to know if we can, and in what conditions, allow them to do without the second dose of the vaccine”.

France is still on track to reach its goal of 30million people vaccinated with at least one dose of a vaccine by mid-June, Mr Castex said.

That objective could even be reached five days earlier, on June 10, according to online booking portal Doctolib. 

The platform has also said that its data suggests that around half of the French adult population will have received at least one dose of a vaccine by June 21. It said that 10million injections had been booked already for the month of June, of which 2.3million are for the first dose.

All adults aged 18 or over are now allowed to book a vaccination appointment, regardless of health conditions.

Read more: All adults in France can now book Covid-19 vaccination appointments

According to the latest statistics from May 30, 25,439,848 people in France have received at least one vaccine dose; and 11,917,349 have received all doses needed (whether one, two or three depending on the vaccine and the patient’s needs).

Yet, Mr Castex said that while the vaccination campaign was going well and the “restart of economic activities” was encouraging, he called on the public to respect the “gradual” end of lockdown, and to “not drop your guard”.

He said: “We must continue to respect physical distancing for the foreseeable future.”

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