A new vaccination centre is to open in Bordeaux today (May 26) in a bid to speed up injections to fight the spread of a new variant first detected in the city’s Bacalan neighbourhood last week.
At least 46 cases of the variant were first detected in a cluster in the Bordeaux, Gironde (Nouvelle-Aquitaine) neighbourhood area on May 21. This number has now risen to 60.
A specific vaccination centre in the area is to open from 14:00 today, with a view to speeding up injections to local residents.
The Bordeaux vaccinodrome in the city’s Parc des Expositions is also vaccinating people, but a dedicated centre has opened in Bacalan itself, on rue Joseph-Brunet, for all residents of the neighbourhood.
The vaccination coverage in this area was estimated to be at 34% on May 25, with authorities now calling on all locals to visit the new centre to be vaccinated as soon as possible.
The new centre will be open from 14:00 today, and from 09:00 to 20:00 from tomorrow for at least three weeks, Bordeaux mayor Pierre Hurmic confirmed. It will have the capacity to administer 200 jabs per day.
Mr Hurmic told 20 Minutes: “We must rapidly achieve herd immunity, and for this, we need to vaccinate.”
Benoît Elleboode, director of regional health authority l’ARS Nouvelle-Aquitaine, said that people will not have to show proof of address to receive a vaccination at the new centre.
He said: “We will make it as simple as possible and call on the responsibility of the population, and ask them to ‘play by the rules’ for the moment. We must make access to the centre as easy as possible to ensure a large take-up.”
The government has confirmed that it will send 19,000 extra doses of the Pfizer and Moderna jabs to the area, to specifically guard against this new variant.
Mr Elleboode said: “19,000 doses is considerable, because the Bacalan neighbourhood is only home to around 10,000 people, and some people are already vaccinated. We calculated that we would need 16,000 to vaccinate in a dedicated area, and they have given us a lot more as an extra security margin.”
The area has also set up widespread testing, Mr Hurmic said.
“We have also had to inform residents that they must get tested quickly. The secret to succeeding against this type of variant is [an appropriate] response by everyone involved.”
Mr Elleboode added: “The appearance of this variant is proof that we must continue to apply barrier gestures even if we are vaccinated, especially in our region, where there are fewer people vaccinated and we [only] have 6-9% of the population who has had Covid [and is therefore naturally immune].”
More cases, but indicators 'reassuring’
The ‘Bordeaux strain’ is a mutation of the UK variant, and has already been detected in several regions in France, for one-off cases. This is the first time it has been discovered as part of a wider cluster of cases. Two chains of contamination have been confirmed.
Mr Elleboode said: “Two chains of contamination have been identified, with two ‘patients zero’ at the origin. These chains were passed through birthday parties, parent-teacher meetings, and work colleagues. We have not identified one event in particular.
“The virus was also spread in an annex of the local Mairie, and in some medical centres.”
Yet, Mr Elleboode said that while the variant appeared to be “more contagious”, “a certain number of indicators [still] appear reassuring, as none of the positive cases are of a severe form” of the illness, and the positive patients are “all young people [under 50], who are not [yet] vaccinated”.
He said that this means it is very likely that vaccines protect against this variant.
He said: “In Bordeaux, 50% of people aged over 50, and 80% of people aged over 65, are vaccinated.”