When Health Minister Olivier Véran announced the beginning of the flu vaccination season this week, he stressed its increased importance for "vulnerable people" and caregivers, so as not to overburden hospitals faced with the Covid-19 epidemic.
This follows a call by 75 MPs for the seasonal flu jab to be widely administered this year, not only to the most vulnerable.
In France, the flu jab is 100% reimbursed for people over 65 and people at risk. It is available to everyone else, but they must pay a certain amount.
Who can be vaccinated free of charge?
- People aged 65 and over
- People suffering from certain chronic diseases (asthma, diabetes, etc. a full list can be found here, in French).
- Pregnant women
- People suffering from obesity (Body Mass Index over 40)
- People in regular contact with children under six months old
- Immuno-compromised people
- Carers or people in regular contact with people at risk of severe flu
- Health workers
How this works
If you fall under one of these categories you will probably receive a vaccination voucher in the post from the French state health insurance service Assurance Maladie.
If you do not receive this voucher but do fall under one of these categories, you can go to your doctor or a pharmacy for the voucher.
This enables you to a free dose of the vaccine (which can be collected from a pharmacy).
You can have the dose administered by your doctor; a midwife (for pregnant women and the new-born’s entourage); a nurse, and/or for adults by certain trained pharmacists.
Starting last year, this is now possible at certain pharmacies with staff trained to give the jab.
Is it completely free?
If you fall into one of the above categories then you can get the vaccination dose free of charge. Then you need to have it administered.
Reimbursement for the flu shot is the same as for a regular consultation with a doctor, i.e. 70% of the basic social security rate (€25), with the remaining 30% covered by complementary health insurance (such as a mutuelle), if you have one.
If the vaccine is administered by a midwife, the reimbursement will also be 70%. However, if it is carried out by a nurse (€6.30), the reimbursement will be 60%.
Complementary health insurance should also cover any costs of getting the vaccination administered directly at the pharmacy, which is at the same tariff for nurses, for those who are eligible.
What if you do not fall into one of the priority categories?
You can still get vaccinated against the flu, but will need to pay.
In most pharmacies it will cost between €6 to €10 to buy the dose. You then need to get it administered. If you are not a priority person, it will not be directly administered at the pharmacy. You must take the dose to a doctor, nurse or midwife.
There, the same rules apply as for a normal consultation (described above).
Following the letter by 75 MPs, this may change. However, there has been no update so far.
How many people get the flu jab in France?
Health advisory body to the government Haute Autorité de Santé says take-up of flu jabs is too low.
It states: “Despite the annual vaccination campaigns, vaccination coverage (of at-risk people) remains inadequate, well below the 75% target set by the World Health Organisation.
“For the 2019-2020 season, only 45% of these people were vaccinated, including just over half of those over 65 (52%), and less than a third of those under 65 suffering from a long-term illness (31%).”
Are there enough doses of the vaccination to go around?
It is said that there are enough this year. Global flu vaccine manufacturers have produced a record number of doses for the 2020-2021 season, with authorities hoping to relieve hospitals of flu patients as the Covid-19 pandemic bounced back.
In France, Mr Véran declared on Monday, September 21, that 30% more doses of seasonal flu vaccine have been ordered.
How deadly is seasonal flu?
The World Health Organisation states that seasonal flu is responsible for between 290,000 and 650,000 deaths per year worldwide. In France, for the 2018-2019 season, it caused 8,100 deaths.
The mortality rate (the number of deaths in relation to the infected population) of seasonal flu is between 0.2 and 0.5%, Santé Publique France states.