From Monday, January 4, healthcare workers aged over 50 will be able to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccination against Covid-19, Health Minister Olivier Véran has announced.
Initially, this stage of the vaccination roll-out was planned for the end of January. His announcement comes amid criticism that France is vaccinating too slowly.
“Be reassured. The vaccination campaign will soon be scaled up. The vaccine is an historic opportunity to end this pandemic and return to normal life. We won't miss it,” Mr Véran wrote on Twitter on Thursday, December 31.
“We have decided to accelerate the protection of priority groups. As of Monday, healthcare workers aged 50 and over who wish to do so, will be able to be vaccinated in the centres that already have vaccines.
“These vaccines are gradually being delivered to France and soon more than 100 equipped hospitals will be able to administer them every day.
“In addition, before the beginning of February, the first vaccination centres will open in cities to start vaccinating people aged 75 and over, then those aged 65 and over, etc.”
The latest figures show that Germany, which started its vaccination campaign one day before France, has already administered 131,626 doses. France has vaccinated 332 people.
Michaël Rochoy is a GP in Outreau (Pas-de-Calais) and a member of the collective "Du côté de la Science" (on the side of science) a group of doctors, scientists, researchers and teachers that publishes information about Covid-19.
He is one critic of the slowness of France’s vaccination roll-out.
“We could go faster, as other European countries are doing,” he told FranceInfo.
“I think that France has not prepared well. I think everyone can see that there is a lack of readiness on the part of the authorities, linked to the vaccination calendar.”
Dr Alain Fischer, the official coordinator of France’s vaccination campaign, defended the campaign and said, “it’s good that we’re not going any faster”. France’s progressive strategy “gives time to do things right in terms of safety, efficiency, organisation and ethics, with regards to consent”, he said in an interview with radio network Europe 1.
France is the only European country where written consent is required before receiving the vaccination.
France to stick with two doses, three weeks apart
The UK has decided to administer the two required doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines three months apart, rather than three weeks, as tested by the companies.
The chief medical officers in the UK said that “the great majority” of initial protection came from the first jab.
Pfizer has said that it has only tested the efficacy of the vaccination when two doses are administered three weeks apart.
“The safety and efficacy of the vaccine has not been evaluated on different dosing schedules as the majority of trial participants received the second dose within the window specified in the study design,” Pfizer wrote in a statement to US TV channel CNBC.
The UK has recorded a surge in Covid-19 cases recently, with a record 55,892 reported on Thursday, December 31.
France’s health ministry has confirmed that the country will follow the recommended advice of the Pfizer/BioNTech and administer the vaccination twice, three weeks apart.
This allows the vaccine to be 95% effective, compared to 70% if a single dose is administered, the companies have said.