Minister of State for European Affairs, Clément Beaune, has said a contract between the European Union and American biotech company Moderna for a Covid-19 vaccination is days away from being finalised.
He told news source LCI: “Brussels has assured us it is almost ready.”
Negotiations between the two organisations have been going on for months. In August, “advanced discussions” on a pre-contract were announced for the purchase of 80 million doses of the vaccine.
This contract was never signed, and Stéphane Bancel, a French businessman who owns 9% of Moderna, warned that stalling further could result in “slow delivery” of the vaccine as members of the EU would be lower priority than countries which had already signed contracts.
Tests currently show the Moderna vaccine is 94.5% effective. Contracts are already in place with Canada, Israel, Japan, the UK, and the US.
EU one of the world’s biggest vaccine buyers
The EU has already contracted with other vaccine producers including Pfizer/BioNTech (who last week announced their vaccine had 90% protection), AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Sanofi-GSK, and CureVac.
This makes the EU one of the biggest buyers of Covid-19 vaccinations in the world. Currently, 1.4 billion doses of vaccines have been pre-ordered in Europe, equivalent to 3.1 doses per person living in the EU. This places Europe fourth after Canada, the UK, and Australia in terms of the number of doses ordered per person.
When could vaccination begin in France?
Health minister Olivier Véran has said the government expects to begin vaccination in early 2021.
Government spokesperson Gabriel Attal gave a more specific date in an interview with news source France 2 on Tuesday, November 17. “The European Medicines Agency has said it thinks it will be able to validate an initial vaccine at the end of the year so that it can be distributed in January.”
Meanwhile, newspaper Les Echos has reported that the AstraZeneca (4.4 million doses) and Pfizer/BioNTech (3.5 million doses) vaccines will be available in January, with vaccines from Moderna and Novavax following in February.
Who would get priority for vaccination?
Health body the Haute Autorité de santé envisages two possible strategies, as the effectiveness of the vaccines has yet to be completely verified.
Vaccination could either target the largest number of people possible with the intention of creating herd immunity, or could focus on the people most at risk from the virus. The latter would include people aged over 65, people with chronic illnesses, health workers and people in communal accommodation such as hospitals, care homes and prisons.
A decision will be made when more scientific data about the vaccines is available. Ethics advisors from the Conseil consultatif national d'éthique will also be consulted.
Would vaccination be mandatory?
Politicians such as Gérard Larcher, president of the Senate, and MEP Yannick Jadot, have said they are in favour of mandatory vaccination in France.
But senior members of the government have been more reticent. The health minister told news source BFMTV on November 17: “It is not a decision that will be made, like that, with the snap of the fingers. Especially in a country like France where people have reservations about the vaccine.”
A survey by Ipsos released on November 5 showed that 54% of people in France were against mandatory vaccination for Covid-19.
How much would vaccines cost?
In his interview with BMFTV, Olivier Véran also said people would not have to pay for the vaccine. He said: “All treatment for Covid-19 is free. I cannot envisage making people in France pay for a vaccination.”
Free vaccination has not yet been officially confirmed, but the State has budgeted €1.5billion in 2021 for the purchase of vaccines, a sum which according to Les Echos, includes organising logistics for vaccination as well as paying for vaccines.
How many vaccines would be needed to immunise France?
The Haute Autorité de santé published a report in July outlining different scenarios, one of which estimated that a total of 46 million doses of the virus would be required to immunise people in France, if the vaccine required only one or two shots to be effective.
To reduce virus circulation to almost nothing, it estimated that 60-70% of the population would have to be vaccinated, equivalent to 40 million to 47 million people.
But there are still questions over the longevity of immunity any vaccine could provide.
Infectologist and professor at the Institut Pasteur, Professor Daniel Camus, told news source Ouest-France: “If it is necessary to redo the vaccination every year, as we do for the flu, it is not really a problem.
“But if vaccines only last two or three months, it is not the same thing at all. Only experience and time will tell.”