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Omicron, boosters, child vaccines: Updates from French health minister

Olivier Véran estimates that by the New Year France will be seeing 100,000 Covid infections per day but that it will not necessarily bring a wave of hospitalisations due to vaccination

An image of a crate full of Covid vaccines

Health Minister Olivier Véran has announced several updates on the subject of Omicron, child vaccination and the booster campaign Pic: M-Foto / Shutterstock

France’s Health Minister Olivier Véran has announced that the Covid vaccination campaign will be opened to five to 11-year-olds today (December 22). 

“We must do it as quickly as possible,” Mr Véran said during an interview on BFMTV, adding that appointments can begin straightaway with a five to 11-year-old category having been opened on booking platforms. 

Some 145 children are currently in hospital with serious forms of Covid.

Children who go to receive their Covid vaccination must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Only one parent or guardian needs to give their permission for the vaccination of their child. 

France’s health authorities have stipulated that the vaccination of younger children should remain voluntary, and that they should not be included in the health pass system.

Read more: French health authority approves vaccination of five to 11-year-olds

Mr Véran also said that: 

  • Adolescents over 12 will not be offered a booster dose “for the moment”

  • Omicron is expected to become the dominant variant in France between Christmas and New Year.

The new variant is currently believed to represent 20% of all French cases “and without a doubt 35% in Ile-de-France”, its prevalence across the country having doubled since the end of last week. 

“Ask me again in two days, I will tell you that it accounts for one infection in three [across France]. Between now and the end of the month, we will go beyond 100,000 Covid infections per day.”

Mr Véran also said that Omicron is “very contagious” but that it is not “bringing with it a wave of hospitalisations and its effect is impacted by the vaccines.”

  • There are no plans for “additional restrictions” at this point

Mr Véran did, however, stress the importance of getting vaccinated.

  • The government hopes to introduce a law enabling identity checks in restaurants and bars in a bid to fight against fake health passes. 

“We will place identity checks in the text [of the law], we will make it possible to carry out identity checks in certain circumstances,” he said. 

Read more: Efforts stepped up to fight fake French health passes after death

  • Mr Véran would like to bring forward the shortening of the gap between second doses and boosters. 

The French government has already announced that the recommended delay between the administration of the second and booster doses of the Covid vaccines be reduced from five to four months from January. 

Now, Mr Véran has said that: “I wish to accelerate this and allow the booster from four months after the [initial] vaccinations from next week.”

  • Some 182,000 fake health passes have been identified since July

  • The government hopes that “a health pass spirit” will exist in workplaces, but adds that this measure will not become law because of opposition from other state organisations.

Mr Véran had previously said that the government was considering integrating a health pass requirement into all places of work, meaning that unvaccinated people would have to do a Covid test every day in order to go into the office.

  • There are no immediate plans to begin using the Novavax vaccine in France. 

The protein-based, US-produced vaccine was approved for use by the European Medicines Agency on Monday, but Mr Véran said that: “We are prioritising the mRNA vaccines [Pfizer and Moderna], they’re the safest.”

Nearly 73,000 new Covid cases were detected in France yesterday (December 21), marking a rise of 15% on the beginning of last week, said government spokesperson Gabriel Attal.

Related stories 

Heartbreak for Britons kept out by Covid rules

Coronavirus: Daily updates on the situation in France

Covid fifth wave: French government brings vaccine pass debate forward




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