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France Covid-19: ‘Extreme caution needed for 3-6 months’

It will take months for the Covid vaccine to make a difference in 2021, and the public must remain extremely alert still, the government’s top scientific advisor has said

People in France must continue to be “extremely careful for three to six months still” as the country awaits the roll-out of the Covid-19 vaccine, the president of the government’s scientific advisory committee has said.

Professor Jean-François Delfraissy, president of le Conseil Scientifique, advised people in France to “hold on”, as it will take several months for the positive impact of the vaccine to emerge, he said in an interview with newspaper Le Parisien.

He said: “We must continue to be extremely careful for three to six months still. Science is moving forwards - silently - but it is moving forwards.”

This will be the “final effort” and push, he added, and warned the public to do everything possible to avoid a potential third wave of the virus in early 2021. He said that the real impact of the vaccine would not be felt until at least the summer.

He said: “[The vaccine] will not have an impact in the first trimester of 2021, and very little on the second. The beginning of the year [2021] will not be very different from 2020.”

Professor Delfraissy said that the “immune response and [any] side-effects” linked to the vaccine would be “closely followed with great attention”.

He said: “Let us take our time.”

Read more: France to closely monitor side-effects of Covid-19 vaccine

The professor added that he would be getting the vaccine “without hesitation”, and said that was not planning a full Christmas dinner with his family, but was going to “have a glass of something and some petits fours” instead.

Professor Defraissy’s comments come almost a month after he said that he could “see light at the end of the tunnel” for 2021, and that the “first data” from the vaccine trials and development had made him “optimistic”.

He said: “Even if the vaccine will not resolve everything and 2021 still will not be a normal year, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

France is set to roll out Covid-19 vaccines from January, starting with the most vulnerable in society and then gradually moving to the entire population, possibly by spring or summer.

Read more: Easy-look timetable for France five-stage Covid vaccine plan

Yet, France has reported high levels of reticence and distrust towards the vaccine among the public, with some polls finding that more than 50% of people in France would not have the vaccine when it becomes available.

To help improve take-up rates, health bodies have advised a communication campaign that will encourage people to trust the jab and get vaccinated as soon as possible.

Professor Delfraissy said: “Getting vaccinated is a civic act. We need more transparency and major communication work. As the minister for health said perfectly: ‘Everything that I know, the citizen should also know.’”

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