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France downplays vaccine delays as Moderna confirms shortage

The Ministry of Health has said that despite delivery delays, just 5% of currently-booked appointments will be delayed, and already-booked times will be honoured in early February

France has said that just 5% of Covid-19 vaccination appointments will be postponed as a result of vaccine shortages, even as the Moderna lab becomes the latest to announce delivery delays to the EU.

Moderna has now said that its deliveries to the EU will be reduced by a quarter in February, meaning there will be 150,000 fewer doses of its vaccine delivered than planned for the month.

It comes after Pfizer and AstraZeneca have also said that they will deliver fewer doses than planned in the first quarter of the year.

Read more: France aims to maintain vaccine numbers amid AstraZeneca row

The vaccine shortage has led some vaccination centres to close or postpone appointments until enough doses are available.

This week, the Agences régionales de santé (ARS) of Île-de-France, Hauts-de-France and Bourgogne-Franche-Comté said they would need to postpone appointments due to the challenge of sourcing enough doses.

Online reservations for appointments in Bourgogne-Franche-Comté have been suspended completely, and some appointments have been postponed for days or even weeks.

Other European countries have stated similar issues; Portugal has said that its vaccination rollout will now take longer, while Germany has said that the shortage in vaccines will continue to bite until April.

Yet, the Ministry of Health in France has said that one million first doses and 1.4 million second doses - the vaccines require two doses spaced a few weeks apart to work - will be administered in February.

Of these, 600,000 first injections will be made between February 1-14, for first-vaccination appointments that were made online when booking for those aged 75 and over first opened. These times will be honoured, the ministry said.

The other 400,000 appointments are set to take place between February 15-28, the ministry said, with bookings for these dates opening online today.

Many centres have stopped giving “first” doses to ensure that those who have already received the dose get their second jab in time, and to avoid those who have a new first dose from not receiving their second in time.

A statement from the ARS Hauts-de-France said that it was postponing all first-time injection appointments for at least a week, “to guarantee the administration of the second injection for all people who already received the first dose in January”.

Most first vaccination appointments scheduled until February 2 will therefore be postponed and rebooked for the first week of March, it said.

The statement continued that the ARS timeline had been worked out based on “the delivery promises announced by the manufacturers, so it could still be subject to change”.

But the Ministry of Health said that just 5% of appointments would be postponed overall, and that those who had already received the first dose would be prioritised to receive the second as soon as possible.

It said that no appointment would be cancelled completely.

So far in France, 1.13 million people have received their first dose, and 6,153 their second injection.

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