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Urgent call to catch up on vaccinations in France post-Covid

Thousands of infants and vulnerable adults missed crucial vaccinations the during Covid-19 lockdown in France, according to public health body la Haute Authorité de Santé, which has said that catching up on vaccinations must be a priority now that Covid-19 is under control.

Thousands of infants aged 3-18 months have not been vaccinated against serious illnesses such as diphtheria, tetanus, polio, whooping cough, meningitis and hepatitis B since confinement began in France on March 11.

And adults with chronic illnesses have also had to miss important vaccinations, according to independent public health body la Haute Authorité de Santé (HAS).

The organisation made an urgent call yesterday (June 16) for vaccination against dangerous illnesses to be made a priority in France, now that Covid-19 is under control. 

Read more: All 150 new Covid clusters in France ‘under control’

Read more: Europe losing health battle with measles

Elisabeth Bouvet, infection specialist and president of the commission for vaccination techniques at the HAS, said in a statement that the steps taken to catch up on missed vaccinations since deconfinement began on 11 May have been “insufficient”. 

She warned that if vaccination did not increase quickly: “We risk seeing epidemics resurging, and losing the increase in vaccination that we seemed to have succeeded in obtaining.”

Thousands of vaccinations missed in France

The HAS had advised that obligatory vaccinations be maintained for infants under 2 years old even during confinement, with vaccinations for older children waiting until deconfinement began. 

It estimates that the deficit in vaccinations following eight weeks of confinement in France now stands at 90,000 people from all age groups, including for papillomavirus (also known as HPV); 123,000 children for measles, mumps and rubella (MMR); and 450,000 people of all age groups for tetanus.

This is alongside 44,000 infants aged 3-18 months in France who have not been vaccinated against diphtheria, tetanus, polio, whooping cough, meningitis and hepatitis B.

The HAS has drawn its figures from reports released during the Covid-19 crisis by Epi-phare, a research group that uses data from medicine agency l’Agence du Médicament (ANSM) and national health insurer l’Assurance Maladie.

According to an Epi-phare report released on Friday June 12, “there was a collapse in consumption throughout the initial confinement period of 35% to 71% for all vaccinations”.


Vulnerable adults also a priority

As well as children, the HAS also called attention to the need for vulnerable adults to keep up to date with vaccinations. These include people with chronic illnesses and immunodeficiencies, older people, patients undergoing chemotherapy, and pregnant women. 

It advises that adults who have tested positive for Covid-19 with a PCR test (which detects whether the person being tested currently has the virus) can begin getting vaccinations as soon as symptoms subside. Although, it adds, patients should wait 48 hours to have a vaccination after having a fever.

Related stories:

Boys to be invited for HPV vaccination in France

Covid-19 vaccine trials to start in France in July

French minister: ‘No Covid vaccine before end of 2021’

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