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France looks at ways to speed up Covid-19 vaccine campaign

The national health authority has given three recommendations to vaccinate the population faster, including expanding the list of health issues that qualify patients as ‘at-risk’

France’s national health authority the Haute Autorité de Santé (HAS) has updated its recommendations regarding the Covid-19 vaccine rollout in an opinion published today (March 2). The new suggestions are aimed at speeding up the vaccination campaign.

It now recommends that four new categories of people with existing health issues should be priority to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine (see our list below). 

It also recommends that people aged over 65 should be allowed to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine. This was confirmed by France’s Health Minister Olivier Véran yesterday.

The HAS originally stated that people aged over 65 should not receive this vaccine type due to a lack of data on its efficiency in this age group

The HAS has also now recommended that a wider group of health professionals, including pharmacists, nurses and midwives, be allowed to administer all three types of vaccine approved for use in France, not just the AstraZeneca one. 

The HAS stated that it has made these suggestions based on newly available data and in order to speed up the rollout.

“With an average of more than 20,000 new cases of the CoV-2-SARS infection every day, and an increase in those related to variants of the virus, the epidemic remains at a very high level,” the authority wrote

“Pressure on the health system also remains a concern. In this context, the rapid vaccination of the most vulnerable is more than ever a central issue.”

The new priority categories

The HAS recommends four new categories of people be added to the list of priority patients to receive a Covid-19 vaccination. This means that regardless of their age, people who fall into these categories are now recommended to receive a vaccine.

  • People with chronic liver diseases and in particular cirrhosis
  • People with psychiatric disorders
  • People with dementia;
  • People with a history of having strokes

These new categories are added to the HAS’s previous list, published November 30. This list includes people with:

  • Obesity (BMI > 30)
  • chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and respiratory failure
  • Complicated arterial hypertension
  • Heart failure
  • Diabetes type 1 and 2
  • Chronic kidney failure
  • Cancers (developed under three years ago)
  • Solid organ or hematopoietic stem cell transplants
  • Down Syndrome

The HAS also stated that of the categories of people already identified, they have found that three in particular are at very high risk of serious forms of Covid-19. 

These are:

  • People with Down Syndrome
  • People who have received an organ transplant
  • People with kidney failure who are on dialysis

More hands on deck

The HAS also updated its opinion on who should be able to administer which type of vaccine.

The authority had previously stated that pharmacists, nurses and midwives should be able to administer the AstraZeneca vaccine. This type can be stored at higher temperatures than the two other vaccine types available in France, those of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. 

The HAS now suggests that these health professionals be allowed to administer all three types of vaccine.

The authority has also called for pharmacists to be able to give out prescriptions for the Covid-19 jab, except to pregnant women and people with hemostasis disorders.

Age remains the main priority

Alongside these new recommendations, the HAS reiterated that age is the predominant factor in the occurrence of severe forms and deaths related to Covid-19.

It said that recent studies found that, compared to those aged 18 to 49, people are:

  • Three times more likely to die from Covid-19 if they are between 50 and 64 years of age
  • Seven times more risk if they are between 65 and 74 years of age
  • Ten times more risk if they are between 75 and 80 years of age
  • Sixteen times more risk over 80 years of age

Read more:

Covid France: Paris mayor opposes March 6 weekend lockdown

Covid France: Vulnerable aged 65-74 to get AstraZeneca jab

Macron: France curfew will continue four to six more weeks

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